Cholmondeley and I made the very wise decision over this last weekend to take a small trip to the South Island of New Zealand to catch the very final day of the “STEAMPUNK: Tomorrow As It Used To Be” exhibition in Oamaru. We had read in several places the exhibition was well worth a visit, including Brass Goggles,  BoingBoing and Greg Broadmore’s blog; anyone familiar with Dr Grordbort’s Infallible Aether Oscillators would surely sit up and take notice when their creator says “Christ, if you just like rad shit, and you live up the way in Wellington or Auckland you should get down there!”

So, what did we think of Oamaru? Well, take this as a first impression. Below is what you see on your way into town, alerting you that you are about to enter a very special dimension:

Steampunk Capital of NZ!

Oamaru: Steampunk Capital of NZ!

Well, I have to say - the town makes a bold boast - but it certainly does deliver.

Oamaru is, quite frankly, extraordinary. On doing post-trip research, I am not surprised to find this sentiment echoed passionately in blogs and news articles - and it’s no surprise when one learns that Oamaru houses more heritage buildings than ANY other town in New Zealand: quite amazing given it is a small town of little over 12,000 inhabitants!

Stunning Victorian buildings!

Stunning Victorian buildings

The architecture has been preserved in much the same way Budapest has been preserved - by serendipitous neglect. During years that many edifices of Victorian architecture around NZ (and the world) were torn down to make way for the new, Oamaru slumbered, waiting for its time to return to glory.

Horse Parking Only!

Horse Parking Only!

Now most historical buildings have been earthquake strengthened and are being refurbished and repopulated with artists, small quirky shops and a real sense of community, opportunity and excitement. Walking through the Historical District is quite literally like stepping back in time 100 years - never in my life before have I felt so transported to Victorian times.

Beware of Penny Farthings!

Beware of Penny Farthings!

Such a setting is a perfect backdrop for Steampunk, not least because Oamaru’s history is so fascinating and gritty. A fascinating brief account can be read here. While Oamaru does boast a world class Opera House and many fine buildings of classical stature, in many ways it is the rough area of town that has the most draw, character, and steampunk feel.

The mysterious "Steampunk HQ" (click image for link)

The mysterious "Steampunk HQ" - click image for link!

There really is a tremendous feeling of possibility here, and the residents of Oamaru are fully immersed in this world, and running with it in the most incredible way.

Exhibition Banner

Exhibition Banner

But I digress. We went down for the Exhibition, and it was indeed the highlight of the trip. We were met just inside the door by Patrick Simmerin’, a most genial and friendly fellow and representative of the League of Victorian Imagineers (the exhibition organisers), who encouraged us to wander and wonder, and take our time perusing the wonderful steampunk creations on display.  And many there were - I couldn’t possibly list all of them here, so many took our fancy, and we encourage you to view the full gallery, which has been wonderfully photographed and documented on the Imagineers’ website here.

The steam train begins its nightly journey...

The steam train begins its nightly journey...

Not only inside the gallery, but also outside there were fantastic public art pieces, the most visible and impressive being the steam train bursting from the main road right in front of the gallery! Late evening and into the night the train ran special sound, lighting and steam effects. A very impressive display indeed.

Iain Clark with Cholmondeley & Ermyntrude & ... the Giant Robot

Local artist Iain Clark with Cholmondeley & Ermyntrude & ... the Giant Robot!

We were very fortunate to have Patrick as a tour guide throughout Oamaru for an afternoon after visiting the exhibtion, too. Our first stop was to visit an upcoming work in progress: an amazing 3 metre high robot built entirely of spare car parts, the brainchild (errr, literally!) of Iain Clark (aka Agent Darling), a local jeweller of exquisite skill and Chief Imagineer. We were highly impressed by Iain’s beautiful works in the exhibition: incuding his very detailed steampunk USB drives, which are truly world class objects d’Art!

Steampunk USB drives, goggles & ring by Iain Clark

Steampunk USB drives, goggles & ring by Iain Clark

Patrick then led us about the historical quarter, dropping in on various shops and artist studios, not least of all Professor Damotimus’ Libratory: a cornucopia of wonderous things, and a relatively new addition to Oamaru’s steampunk community.

In the Libratory!

In the Libratory!

Unfortunately the good Professor was not in to greet us but Patrick amply sufficed and showed us the marvels. We expect the Libratory to grow ever more filled with wonders.

Steampunk Penny Farthing @ Oamaru Cycle Works

Steampunk Penny Farthing @ Oamaru Cycle Works (click image for link)

Of course no visit to Oamaru would be complete without stopping in at the Oamaru Cycle Works! I had never seen so many penny farthing bicycles in one place, and they even have a time travelling one ;) I now proudly own a pair of their gorgeous earrings, which are fully articulated, and purchasable only from the OOCC.

We had a few more stops before heading back to the exhibition for a couple of photo ops, ably organised by La Falconesse, which resulted in some very lovely press, as shown in our previous post, but also made the Otago Daily Times!

Otago Daily Times, Wednesday December 8, 2010 (click image for link to article)

Otago Daily Times, Wednesday December 8, 2010 (click image for link to article)

As noted in the Otago Daily Times, we are also hoping to bring several artworks from the Oamaru exhibtion across for Euchronia as part of our exhibiton for the event, full details of which shall be available very soon!

There’s so much more I would love to convey about Oamaru, and our magnificent day there, but I fear I may exhaust the less hardy of you, and would like to subsequently direct attention to the extensive Flickr Gallery we have created of our trip, and invite you to visit Oamaru yourself at it is very much worth the effort. We are already planning our next trip, for the 2011 Steampunk Fashion Show on June 5th, 2011, for which tickets will be available very soon! In the meantime, our sister leagues of the ALTV and the Imagineers plan to crosspromote wherever possible across the Tasman and the Antipodes!

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9
Dec

Steampunk Fashion Show & Gala Ball 2011

   Posted by: ermyntrude   in Culture

Title: Steampunk Fashion Show & Gala Ball 2011
Location: Oamaru, New Zealand
Link out: Click here
Description: The first steampunk town in the world is planning yet more for the delight of those passionate about steampunk. The 2nd Fashion Show and Gala Ball on 5th June 2011.
For entries
FASHION SHOW
Venue: Oamaru Opera House
Date: 5th June 2011
Time: 2.00 pm
Contribution: Low pressure, before 28th Feb 2011, $28 plus booking fee
High pressure, 1st March 2011 - 5th June, $38 plus booking fee
Dress: in the spirit of the event
Date: 2011-06-05

8
Dec

Welcome new ALTV members!

   Posted by: ermyntrude   in Culture

Just a wee hello and WELCOME! to all the new members we’ve just added to the ALTV blog, who have become ALTV members in the last few weeks. We look forward to seeing many of you at Euchronia: if you have any steamy-related news items to post, please do have at it - this blog is here for all of us to share!

Also, don’t forget - today is Dress Like a Time Traveller Day in Adelaide! Have a wonderful time!

Mme E Millais

7
Dec

Press Alert - ALTV visit makes front page news in Oamaru!

   Posted by: ermyntrude   in Culture

The president and secretary of the ALTV visited Oamaru, New Zealand, for the final day of the “Steampunk: Tomorrow as it Used to Be” exhibition. Our diplomatic mission made front page news in the self-proclaimed Steampunk capital of New Zealand!  Oamaru Mail article here and attached as below:

The Oamaru Mail, December 6, 2010

The Oamaru Mail, December 6, 2010

Full blog post to come with many electrocalotypes and tales of our adventures, Huzzah!

2
Dec

DRESS LIKE A TIME-TRAVELLER DAY [SA]

   Posted by: ermyntrude   in Culture

Title: DRESS LIKE A TIME-TRAVELLER DAY [SA]
Location: Adelaide, South Australia
Link out: Click here
Description: \”Olympia: A Steampunk Spectacular!\” Launch
Come and join other intrepid time travellers (and the Adelaide Steampunk community) for an evening Picnic (6pm-10pm) upon Victoria Square to celebrate International Dress like a Time Traveller day and the launch of the 2011 Adelaide Fringe show: Olympia- A Steampunk Spectacular!

Wednesday 8th December
6-10pm
Victoria Square
BYO food + drinks (dry) and other picnic needs (lawn games, instruments etc)
Dress as a time traveller!
Kids & family friendly
Start Time: 18:00
Date: 2010-12-08
End Time: 22:00

Gosh, it’s now less than a month til Euchronia! As in 2008, we’ve had so many compliments on our 2010 Euchronia poster we felt some information on how it was created would be of interest, even more so than last time.

Because our 2010 venue is a former power station, we felt a theme of electricity was the most obvious choice - and what better way to do it than with REAL lightning, conjured up just for our use?

While many may have assumed that the lightning in the image is solely the result of some clever Photoshop - (and yes, our first teaser flyer was indeed all digital) - while there may have been a little bit of image manipulation involved - the reality is, our lovely model Helen was in fact actually being shot with real lightning bolts from a very impressive 2 meter tall Tesla coil! In fact we believe we are the first steampunk group to have had a genuine Tesla coil photoshoot and this is something we’re very proud of! To get a bit of an idea of what the shoot looked like, check out the animated gif put together by Peter Terren, below:


(Click through to see the full size .gif on Peter’s site)

If you’d just like to see some of the behind the scenes images, you can check out our Flickr set here or Peter Terren’s very comprehensive set of images and amusing back-story here.

Of course the star of the show was Peter Terren of tesladownunder.com and his pride and joy, his Tesla Coil. Peter’s Tesla coil adventures have been featured on TV and in print extensively all over the world, and you have almost certainly seen some of his images online, most likely at the very least his version of “The Thinker” - his website documents all his shoots and he’s done some fantastic images.

Now, working with Tesla coils involves an inherent risk of injury or death - this is high voltage stuff and not for the fainthearted! Fortunately, Peter set us all at ease by trying everything himself before he put any of our models in the firing line, so we were relatively reassured.

But the reality? If any of us had dropped the prop we were holding or stepped out of the Faraday cage while the coil was running - we could have died. For serious! Safety was paramount, and you can see peter below checking the earthing wire on Helen for one of the first shots:

While we had a battery of cameras set up for the shoot (4 cameras in total) the photographer we employed specifically for the shoot was Perth photographer and tree-lover, Nonie Jekabsons, who is more likely to be found photographing more natural subject matter (her RedBubble is here). This was our first shoot with Nonie, and it went very very well. Nonie used two cameras to make sure there was a good range of images to choose from, and with Peter’s and Ian’s cameras as well, we had a lot of backups!

We had several models for the shoot, including Christoper, Ian, Jeremy & Cass, as well as Chris and Peter, and of course Helen, a bastion of the fledgling Perth steampunk scene, who makes wonderful steampunk artifacts that you can find on her website, Dark Nouveau.

Our lovely models provided a fantastic blunderbuss which was a key prop and we were keen to have this prop in the final poster, with just about everyone having a go:

We also did some images which were actually long exposure “trick of the eye” images, where we posed, took a flash image, then ran away while the Tesla coil was turned on:

But in the end, the image of Helen with the Faraday cage won out, with intense blue light from Peter’s brightest bike light in the world. Clothing featured a gorgeous Nubia/Vodabox coat, top hat and the ubiquitous steampunk goggles all available from Wildilocks.

This image was then spliced with another of the lightning bolts, and a few other tricks, to get the finished result:

It was a very exciting and rewarding evening, and thanks so much to everyone who was involved, especially Peter and his lovely wife Jane for showing us such wonderful hospitality!

Just a last note: if you don’t have your Euchronia tickets yet, check the euchronia.com Tickets page for all details on how and where to get them either online or in person!

It is with very great pleasure that we can finally announce a major update to the Euchronia bill, and reveal our new poster (click for large version) - which has a fantastic story of its own involving death-defying feats with Tesla Coils c/o the very talented Peter Terren of Tesla Down Under! But that’s a longer story, and deserves an entire post of its own — which we shall bring you very soon, but not today. Today is dedicated to our exciting new international and interstate attractions!

UNDERBELLY DANCER - MELUSINA

Firstly, we would like to introduce the very lovely Melusina, a star dancer and teacher with Underbelly, Victoria’s premiere Bellydance school and highly recommended by one of our star acts from 2008, Ma’isah of Raqs Gothique. Read more about Melusina here.

MAGDALENE [NZ]

Next, another international artist from across the ditch - Magdalene has performed in fetish clubs in London and NZ and has more recently been making a splash in the NZ burlesque scene. She uses her background in Arabic Dance to create unusual, sometimes beautiful, sometimes horrifying scenes to draw her audience into the emotional landscapes of her performance. More about Madalene here.

IVIZIA [USA]

Secondly, we are very excited to add to our bill a stunning lass from California, USA - the very talented Ivizia who specialises in awesome fire performance. Read more about Ivizia here.

DIJ DIJOR [SYD]

Fresh from The Steampunk Symposium as part of the Under the Blue Moon festival in Sydney earlier this year, Gentleman Adventurer, Stewart Rule & steampunk maker, Sir Dij Dijor brings to Euchronia a selection of his finest contraptions and inventions for your wonderment and awe. Delight in witnessing the awesome Time Machine! Thrill to the power of the Proto Plasmic Wave Blaster!

DR VELLOCET and his POLYPLASMIC ARCOPHONE (featuring “ELECTRA”)

Joining us from the wilds of Western Australia is the very dapper Dr Vellocet and his Polyplasmic Arcophone (Featuring “Electra”). The arcophone is a feat of science, melding electrical energy with sound! Read and see more about the Arcophone at The Artifactory website here.

SFORZANDO

And finally for this announcement, the return performance of the fantastic SFORZANDO, the 8-piece pirate punk extravaganza whose 2008 Euchronia set blew the audience away. In their words:

“SFORZANDO follow the three ancient rules of piracy.

Rule 1: Respect the music of the ocean.
Rule 2: Find treasure.
Rule 3: Loudly.

SFORZANDO intend to steal steampunks to work on their pirate ship ‘The Evil Betty’. You have been warned.”

Steampunks, beware indeed!

For more about any of the acts in the lineup, including DJs and everything else on offer (and there’s more to come!) please head to the Acts & Attractions page on euchronia.com.

Tana Karo will, unfortunately, not be performing at Euchronia.

Euchronia is still seeking submissions for….

The Artisans’ Bazaar

We have spaces for several stalls at the bazaar, if you are interested in selling your wares, please check out the Bazaar page for more information and an application form.

Art Exhibition

Have some steamy Object’s D’Art you’d like to exhibit at Euchronia? Contact Antipodean Maker extraordinaire Mad Uncle Cliff with your details on !

Excited yet? Do you have your tickets yet?

TICKETS!

If you don’t, you can grab them on the euchronia.com website ticket page, Tickets, at all Wildilocks stores (Melbourne, Perth and Wellington) and, within the next few days, at these new ticketing outlets:

and also shortly through www.moshtix.com.au, 1300 GET TIX (438 849), on your mobile www.moshtix.mobi, and all moshtix outlets! (Please note you won’t get the very special Euchronia tickets that many lovingly souvenir through this outlet, but if it’s hard for you to get to our other outlets, there are over 100 Moshtix locations throughout Australia!)

Tickets are still available at the pre-release price of $55 when purchased with an ALTV membership, available only from euchronia.com or Wildilocks. Please read more on the Tickets page. We’re also happy to offer discounted tickets for groups of 10 or more booking together; please email for more information.

Stuck for ideas on what to wear? We’ve updated our What to Wear page too, and welcome suggestions for more.

Look out for more from us very shortly. Huzzah!

20
Nov

A Roguish Reminder

   Posted by: cholmondeley   in Culture, League

The Wellington League’s premiere event “Rogue” is to take place this evening. Persons of quality and taste are invited to attend the premises at 101 Ghuznee Street in attire suitable for dancing. General Admission will be available from 9.00pm. Carousing is encouraged.

25
Oct

Steampunk: tomorrow as it used to be (exhibition) [NZ]

   Posted by: ermyntrude   in Culture

Title: Steampunk: tomorrow as it used to be (exhibition) [NZ]
Location: Oamaru, New Zealand
Link out: Click here
Description: The exhibition is called Steampunk - Tomorrow as it Used to Be and is being organised by the League of Victorian Imagineers, a group of Oamaru Steampunk enthusiasts. The exhibition will showcase a wide variety of Steampunk inspired artworks from New Zealand artists. Also on display will be some marvelous Infallible Aether Oscillators Rayguns from WETA workshop\’s Dr Grordbort.
Start Date: 2010-10-23
End Date: 2010-12-05

As an impressionable young teenager growing up in the heady years of the 1980s, I have fond memories of the magnum opus of the now fairly obscure Yahoo Serious - a classic of Australian cinema, the rollicking good tale Young Einstein. I was, to be quite honest, a ridiculously giddy fan of Mr Serious back in the day: I collected newspaper clippings and magazine articles from any source possible and I even looked up his address in the NSW phone book and wrote to him. Most excitingly, I even received a reply! I’m hoping when I have some time to go through my stored stuff, I’ll be able to find it…

But I digress.

I would like to put forth a proposition, which is, to whit: that I believe Young Einstein to be the seminal proto-steampunk movie to have been produced in the Antipodes. It has all the hallmarks of a classic steampunk story: swashbuckling romance, geeky endearing characters, crazy inventions of Science and, quite notably, it is an alternative history as several good steampunk tales have been. The Difference Engine, The Anubis Gates, Walt and Emily and numerous others all play fast & loose with the potential alternate lives of well known (or not quite so well known) figures of history, and have them doing some crazy and remarkable things.

The plot of Young Einstein is a lighthearted telling of the strange story of Albert Einstein - Tasmanian apple farmer. It is set in the Edwardian era, and Young Einstein’s age appears to be concurrent with the real Einstein. Albert grows up an odd, inquisitive boy; “Sometimes I wonder whether he’s cut out for farming,” says his father. Accompanied scene by scene by every iconic Australian animal known to us, he displays his odd character by washing dishes in his bathtub (while bathing, and playing the violin), being unusually accident-prone and unusually thoughtful. Eventually, he discovers how to split the atom and put bubbles into beer - clearly the most important possible use for such a groundbreaking technology as nuclear fission. In the process he destroys his grandad’s shed. But his father is exceedingly proud and sends young Bert off to the mainland to register his discovery at the Patent Office, for the good of all mankind. Here we see the vague threads of the real Einstein, as Albert takes up work at the patent office as a way in to try and register his idea, which nobody seems to understand. He is bullied in this job by the corny Ubervillain Preston Preston who, in his attempts to impress the pantalettes off the visiting French scientist and love interest Marie Curie, resolves to steal Albert’s formula and “make something of it”. Along the way, Albert also invents Rock & Roll (and surfing) quite a few years early. When Einstein discovers Magnus’ plans, he hurries to stop him before he blows up the 1906 Science Academy Awards ceremony - which he does by plugging a steampunked guitar into the nuclear reactor Magus has built. All ends well with Einstein getting the girl and nobody dying, including Charles Darwin. Utterly, utterly silly, but completely unapologetically so.

Released through distributor Village Roadshow, Young Einstein was their biggest Australian hit. Warner Bros distributed internationally, with the movie grossing over $100,000,000, so all up a very successful film. The movie was reasonably high-budget for an Australian production at the time ($4.5 million) - yet still much lower than many USA productions - and, the fact that Yahoo retained creative control even after getting the bigger investors interested meant that a lot of the wacky humour and downright silliness, which otherwise may have been cut, remained in the film. It was also clearly a work of great love and inspiration, taking years of development and pitching before reaching any kind of funding, let alone completion. Yahoo has been known answer to the question “how do you make a million dollar movie?” with the answer “1. Get a million dollars. 2. Make the movie.”

But it’s all the little details which I love so dearly, and which are not diminished at all by the age and that fact that it’s from the ’80s; many films from that era have not dated so well. The wardrobe is great, with Albert’s big baggy shorts with braces look incredibly endearing, the classic Victorian long john underwear in some scenes just adorable, and all the outfits for the ladies - ooh la la! There’s proper corsetry, well coiffured Victorian hairstyles (at times…) and lovely frilly underwear that is very tastefully featured, especially in Albert’s dodgy boarding house in the city.

Of course I can’t write this without expounding in greater detail on the real star of the movie - and that is the music. When it comes down to it, the core of the plot hinges on the idea that the power of music is greater than the power of the atomic bomb, which is a wonderful, romantic and delicious idea. The very first scene after the titles is Albert dozing under an apple tree, serenaded by Beethoven from a gramophone. Albert’s steampunked violin and guitar are two fantastic props, and not dissimilar at all to some of the props and art we are seeing people create today within the steampunk community. A fantastic Australian-heavy soundtrack with fabulous tracks from popular bands of the time such as Icehouse, Models, The Saints, Paul Kelly, The Stems, Mental as Anything and Big Pig ensured a very warm reception when the movie came out in Australia, but the Mentals’ cover of “Rock & Roll Music” ensured that it had a little more relevance to the Americans too - and the movie did do very well outside Australia.

I was fortunate to have been in Sydney when the ’80s exhibition was on at the Powerhouse Museum earlier this year, and imagine my surprise and delight when the first thing to be seen on entering the exhibition was, yes, Young Einstein’s guitar, in the flesh! I spent ages looking carefully at all the little details, marvelling that this piece of art had been made so many decades ago, when steampunk as a literary genre had barely begun. And it featured along with so many other iconically steampunkesque gadgets & props: grandad’s laboratory with it’s “bubble-o-meter” for the beer, Albert’s compass for crossing the Great Southern Land, Preston’s pocket watch, the crazy electric lock on the Mad Scientists’ Ward, a steampowered dingy, a penny farthing, a hot air balloon, a crazy homemade wireless, a handgun with crosshair sight - the list just goes on and on and on! And how can you not simply adore and firmly class as 100% steampunk any movie which so steadfastly champions Science above all else? The scenes in the lunatic asylum (featuring a very young Sandman amongst other well-known Aussie faces) speaks volumes: mad scientists, every single one - loveable, crazy, and of course, so very steampunk. And the premise then, that the only thing greater than science, is music? Sheer genius and inspiration.

I can watch Young Einstein over and over and never get bored. There’s plot holes a mile wide, but it all just doesn’t matter: it’s such a fun movie, and you can revel in the positive, can-do attitude, the Science and the Music, and all the steampunk Pretties - and trust me, there are a plethora of them. I salute Yahoo Serious for providing a generation of Australians with a steampunk romp in many ways years ahead of its time, and I think this movie (along with, earlier in my childhood, Cole’s Funny Picture Book, which I plan to write a post on at some point) strongly influenced my later love of steampunk. I thank him wholeheartedly for it.

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