Exposure to new cultures is an enlightening experience, and something all should strive for. In this series ‘Culture Shots’ we want to provide everyone the chance to learn something new from a culture they may not be familiar with. Small shots, easily digested, no chaser needed.
Our world is going digital, and as it does, the futuristic predictions that were so accurately depicted in the sci-fi world, are becoming a reality. From 3D printing and autonomous vehicles to space flight and human longevity, futuristic concepts are already an undeniable part of our everyday lives, and calling them visionary and revolutionary is falling short. “The future is here”, and fuck, if that is not true.
Cyberpunk, “High Tech. Low Life”
The normality of futuristic realities only shows that the future has been with us for a while - perhaps as early as 1984, when William Gibson’s ever-iconic ‘Neuromancer’ set the cyberpunk wheel in motion. Despite its official tag as a sub-genre of science fiction, cyberpunk has become much more than a simple movie genre. Since its origins in the 80s, cyberpunk has infiltrated all creative sectors, from cinema and photography, to art and fashion. The ever-growing, ever-changing subculture that emerged is iconographic of a movement that has found many parallels in our modern world. Is it “High Tech. Low life”, or, our reality today?
The future is there... looking back at us. Trying to make sense of the fiction we will have become.” William Gibson, the father of cyberpunk, from ‘Pattern Recognition’
A skyline of paradoxes
For the cyberpunk community - any Blade Runner (1982) or Altered Carbon (2018) fans around? - the dystopian set and urban jungle will be all too familiar, but for the rest, cyberpunk may look like a distorted washed out image of the future. However, that vision is not too far away from our own reality. Even in the characteristic cyberpunk setting, we find a life similar to ours - in the neon corporate metropolises and in the run-down neighbourhood, whose muddy streets reflect the neon lights from above. Together with a good dose of film noir aesthetics (fog, dark alleys, night scenes), cyberpunk cities can be found in many of today’s eastern and south-eastern asian cities. Tokyo, Hong Kong, Chongqing, or Kowloon, to name a few…are some of the modern locations that give off the cyberpunk vibe, as the fragile line between the real world and the cyber world blurs even further.
Cyberpunk Art - Hot pinks and electric blues, the Neon City
And of course, the neon. After all, there is nothing more characteristic of cyberpunk style than the richness of neon lights and 80s nostalgia aesthetics. Intense and surreal at the same time, the nebulous pinks and blues mix with the bright luminescent lights of advertisements to create a distinctive visual imagery. Over and over, we’ve seen the increasing commercialisation of neon and cyberpunk artwork in all visual mediums, from the traditional to the most underground, and creatives are not shy about using them extensively, to attention-grab and translate a wildly different look.
Ivan Lopez (Spain) and Dylan Kowalski (France) are some of the cyberpunk artists to keep on your radar. Ivan is a 3D character artist specialised in modelling and digital sculpting whose background on human anatomy, surface, and texturing has helped him introduce realism to his works, and land several roles in big mainstream productions. Dylan, who is also a 3D artist, has taken a different approach. His cyberpunk representations are rebellious and re-imaginative, with his understanding of concept and character, in a science fiction and fantasy combination. Artists are working to reinvent the concept of cyberpunk, to produce a novel, contemporary interpretation that expresses the use of digital techniques, individual artistic styles, and deeper explorations.
We are also fans of Rashed AlAkroka (shown above). Rashed is a self taught digital and traditional artist from Kuwait who has been painting as a hobby since early childhood. Rather than focusing on cityscapes, he has produced some amazing portraits and characters in the cyberpunk style, and often favours black and white tones in contrast to the traditional neon colours.
Rebellion is part of the DNA
Drawing from heavy punk and hacker culture influences, it is no surprise that cyberpunk is all about attitude. Cyberpunk protagonists are usually of rebellious persona, questioning, dissenters, and misfits overall, whose dangerous qualities are often romanticised by the subculture that gave birth to them. But even then - in between the complex and multi-layered character conflict - their subversive nature remains as compelling and identifiable as ever.
Cyberpunk is now?
Yes, Cyberpunk is here, its impact on contemporary culture is clear. Beyond the countless films and shows, comics and cartoons, the style pervades music videos, advertising campaigns and video games (even spawning a game based on its namesake - Cyberpunk 2077 - trailer below). The dividing lines that separate the natural and the virtual have blurred to new heights and we’re living in an era that is as unpredictable as it is revealing. The realisation of futuristic predictions is only the beginning of the journey; as the world keeps changing, new possibilities are emerging. The future is our canvas and we only have to decide what to paint in it.
“When we first started cyberpunk, we really wanted to come in under the radar – out of this little science fiction subculture – just knock people flat on their backs. And we really did it. Nobody could have foreseen the futures we imagined.” Bruce Sterling
Text: Carlota Pano