#vnv52 Week 2: „Machines of Radiant Design“

Machines of Radiant Design

I admit it: I’m a sucker for retrofuturism. I love airships, chrome, tailfins, streamlines, art deco, you name it. I’d probably choose to live in the Gernsback Continuum if I could.

When VNV Nation released Futureperfect, its echoes of that lost future that never was haunted me. When the band released Automatic, I was elated. From the cover design to the lyrics of songs like „Space & Time“ or „Streamline“, the album offers a trip into that parallel world that was not to be. A world that was supposed to arise triumphantly after the catastrophe of World War I, borne from the endless optimism of a time when mankind thought everything was possible. A perfect world that we never built because fascism, the cold war and a runaway monster capitalism (and now the looming threat of a nascent new fascism) pushed it aside, devoured it and spit out the cold, technocratic world we live in today. Dreams we abandoned once and for all when after Apollo 17 we stopped going into space.

Transnational picked up on that theme again, and those two albums are a package without equal.

A little part of that world – or rather of the seeds that wanted to grow into it before being brutally crushed – still survives today in classic cars and selected pieces of architecture. Which is why one of my favorite places in Germany (that is not abandoned) is the Technikmuseum Speyer. It’s the place where an actual Boeing 747 suspended on steel pillars eight stories high meets 1920s Mercedes prototypes meets an honest-to-gods Buran.

This picture, taken at Speyer, is a detail from a 1939 Opel Kapitän. The hood ornament looks like an art deco locomotive blazing a trail into the future. A future I still long for.

„Machines of radiant design bear silent witness to a golden age.“ Alas, an age that was not to be.