” Steampunk is a visual medium which has so much more to offer then cogs and corsets. The Mad Sea Party is a micro trail with pop-up book style artworks that revel in the modestly scaled, detailed environment. We are inviting visitors to patiently wade through the exhibition as if scuba diving a reef.”
Many visitors come to the Florence Nightingale Museum hoping to be immersed in a heroic quest anchored in a meaningful environment. A top FAQ is why is the museum here [at St Thomas’ Hospital]? The relationship between the exhibition and its location is an important part of the visitor experience.
Delving into the society that shaped Florence Nightingale, the exhibition is studded with bold personalities and tales of great heroism set against a backdrop of mortal peril. It tells the story of Florence’s life with a collection of small and curious objects which cumulatively reveal the person behind the great public hero. The distinctive Kossmann.Dejong exhibition design is laid out in three chapters presented as individual pavilions. They resemble antique aquaria with precious artefacts and domestic specimens side by side in glass boxes. The addition of a collection of spy holes and two exceptionally poignant taxidermy personalities provides a wonderful backdrop for a Steampunk themed project.
One difficulty with Steampunk is the inclusiveness of the genre. Steampunk casts its net very far, gathering in books, film and cult television. The other major challenge is the epic nature of the imaginary steampunk landscape. The best vehicle for it is the written word; only books can truly conjure the opulence of a complete fantasy universe. And yet going back to the future and revisiting antiquated visions of futuristic worlds is rewarding. Creaky cinematic effects and the clunky design of vintage science fiction in time acquires an avant-garde beauty exemplified by the silent films of George Melies. As do the stop motion monsters of Ray Harryhausen films, mocked for many years and now compared favourably to modern special effects. Outside of literature, Steampunk greatness comes retrospectively. Orchestrated big budget steampunk productions are so often far less influential than the artists and works adopted by the fans.
Creaky science fiction and uncomplicated war films were the staple viewing of my childhood, along with the odd curio that truly captured my imagination. One my favourite childhood films is a 1957 Lewis Gilbert adaptation of J.M Barrie’s The Admirable Crichton which puts an Ealing comedy spin on the social satire. The film takes Barrie’s Downton Abbey style cast of aristocrats and servants to a fabulous outsider art paradise. The set design was for me the highlight of the film. The quality I most admire in steampunk is the enthusiasm, which is most evident in the creation of and celebration of an enveloping avant-garde fantasy.
Our event will pay homage to the titan figure, Jules Verne, and we could not miss the opportunity to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Steampunk is a visual medium which has so much more to offer then cogs and corsets. The Mad Sea Party is a micro trail with pop-up book style artworks, that revel in the modestly scaled, detailed environment. We are inviting visitors to patiently wade through the exhibition as if scuba diving a reef. The overall aim of the project is to temporarily locate Florence Nightingale in a steampunk inspired landscape; to highlight and linger over some of the least travelled areas in her story.