Who would've thought that rusty pipes can spawn a cultural movement?
But they did... After cyberpunk, steampunk was the logical development, then bio-punk, clock-punk, nano-punk, squid-punk... and now dieselpunk (no relation to Vin Diesel, or is there?) True to the name, this movement sings jazzy paens to convoluted and impressive tangles of pipes, chambers, pistons, and has the mighty Torque in the center of it all.
Proper "dieselpunk" takes an interest in various bizarre machines, full of esoteric levers, cracked-glass meters - all visually intense and pretty sinister-looking, when photographed. So let's start with some embryonic steam/dieselpunk vintage imagery:
Depicted above is the bizarre-looking Japanese aircraft carrier "Kaga" from 1926 (more info) Note the horizontal steam pipes (stacks), 150 meters long, placed alongside the vessel.
Photographer Margaret Bourke-White has been immortalizing industrial landscapes since the 1920s (she died in 1971) Here is the engine room of U.S.S.Maryland, 1939:
Illustration to the awesome story by Nat Schachner "Stratosphere Towers", published in Astounding Stories magazine in 1934, featuring 10-kilometer-high megacity, filled with machinery and attacked by robotic planes from the enemy megacity across the globe -
And again, digging deeper into the pulps, we find this invasion of walking vehicles - from 1930s "Amazing Stories":
From the pulp pages dieselpunk migrated into the movies - more easily recognizable cultural references will be "Mad Max" (of course) and the 2004 movie "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" (read interview with the director). Don't miss definitive dieselpunk style in the excellent movie "Dark City" and - perhaps - in the upcoming "Spirit" visual extravaganza.
We mentioned works by Boris Artzybasheff before. But his "machine-eats-machine" world requires a closer look, if we going to understand "diesel-punk" roots. Most of the illustrations were made in the 1940s, many ended up as covers for "Time" magazine, some of them surreal industrial nightmares:
Dieselpunk as a genre was first proposed by the creators of the role-playing game Children of the Sun in 2002. Arguably sharing sensibilities with cyberpunk, rather than steampunk (however some say that it's a darker, dirtier version of steampunk), this petrolium-powered movement has a much earlier roots, especially in 1920s movies, beginning with the classic "Metropolis" by Fritz Lang, and on through the avantgarde work of Sergei Eisenstein - to the imperial 1930s and the architecture of Albert Speer and Hugh Ferriss.
Fast-forward to the present day, and you find that building your own diesel punk masterpiece is no cheap task. But don't despair - there are artists who will gladly sell you a miniaturized versions of dieselpunk machines. For example, one great Japanese artist is Kow Yokoyama, with his models in "Maschinen Krieger" series:
The recent "Hellboy II" movie had some interesting visual steampunk / dieselpunk references (especially with the unforgettable Johann Krauss character). In Finland, the whole dieselpunk comedy about the conquest of the Moon (in a weird alternative world) is in production: "The Iron Sky" -
Speaking of the real technological exploits by Nazi engineers, this rare photograph shows a screw-driven vehicle (similar to the Russian prototypes, made by engineer Grachev - watch video here)
This is the "SchneeMaschine", designed in 1944 by Johannes Raedel, a German soldier sent to the Eastern Front. (more info). He came up with the idea, when he saw the misery of the German troops in the deep Russian snow, and taking a good look at a meat mincer... Testing this machine in the mountains in Tyrol:
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