Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Future of 1950's Post Modern Futurism From The Past

I love the Deco styling of this 1958 futurist film by Disney. Somehow Deco is always in. Some of this design is actually quite hip. Maybe it's so dated that it's hip.

I have nearly 8Gb of storage on my keyring. Enough space for a decent sized school library. I can translate, look up, read mail, buy things and watch porn from my mobile phone. It's funny how the little things have advanced massively but the big stuff hasn't. There are no super duper highways, jetpacks, smart cars, robot companions or space colonizing. Are we micro managing more or are the little things more important. Maybe we are just getting more petty. Of course now I have 8Gb of storage on my keyring the last thing I want is a library of books to read on it. I mean, really, who has time for that shit.



Sean said...

This is a classic! I love the use of punched cards in the ultra-modern family wagon.

In a sense though, the internet is the super highway of the future that they allude to here "bringing better understanding between peoples of differnt nations" - by allowing travel and exchange of information.

The travel is of course virtual, but who wants super highways in the deserts where we can still rock climb :)

- monkeyThunk

Anonymous said...

When looking at futurist predictions from the past I am always reminded of Arthur C.Clarke's Third Law -"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." This film strongly emphasized that road building would be central to regeneration of urban spaces in the future. It also asserted that scientific progress would speed up the process of regeneration and massively increase productivity.
Taking the UK as an example, travel by private car was becoming increasingly popular at the time this film was made. Britain's first motorway (The Preston Bypass) opened in 1958. Literature published by the ministry for transport and civil aviation referred to the new road as "The first link in the network of motorways, which progressively completed will contribute to an increasing extent to health of the community and the national economy". In 1963 the Beeching Report recommended the closure of thousands of miles of railway track in an effort create a more modern and efficient intercity rail network. This was accepted by the British government and money from the rail budget was diverted into road building. The pace of track closure accelerated after 1963 and did not slow down until 1970. By this time 1000 miles of motorway had already been completed.
The vast urban spaces dotted with high rise tower blocks featured in this film seem to have been influenced by the modernist architect Le Corbusier. Local authorities in the UK mimicked his style architecture in the post war years. However the high density buildings were more a way providing thousands of homes at a low cost in order to meet the huge post war demand for housing. The Oil crisis of the mid 1970's brought motorway mania to end in Britain. Economic crisis put an end to the optimism of post-war welfare state. Since then there hasn't been huge state intervention into people’s lives and we live in era of technological rather than scientific advancement.
Industry seems does seem to focus on smaller things, which are helping to create a more technocratic society. The technology that we use to access information in 2008 would have been unconceivable in 1958. In this film Disney captured the optimism of the modernist movement in the 1950's. Most of it is just a frivolous fantasy but there are some central visions that have endured. Had the post war economic boom lasted until the end of the twentieth century, they could have been realized.

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