Past//forward : retrofuturism, science fiction, and toxic nostalgia

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Rogers, Courtney June

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How we look at the world has changed vastly over the course of the human experience, and how we imagine humans within the context of the world even more so. The ability to center the human narrative in the context of history seems to be the first thing creatives try to do, but even more so they work to center themselves in the context of imagined futures. In this MFA thesis I seek to explore how the relationship between science fiction, popular media, and nostalgia work to preserve a more concise version of the contemporary moment, and how we can use this information to acknowledge what the cultural attitudes were at the time. The goal of this thesis exploration is not to determine what hundreds or even thousands of years to come will look like, it is difficult to imagine what the distant future will embody, but through this process I seek rather to explore what the collective pop culture of the recent past thought was important enough to push forward into the inevitable future. The project working title Past//Forward seeks to explore previous decades' attempts to imagine the future and what those visual media creations can tell us about the societal norms, cultural values, and fears and hopes they collectively deemed important enough to push ad infinitum into the future. This is not a comprehensive overview of the idea of retro futurism as a whole, this iteration of the ideas I am exploring focuses almost entirely on western media and science fiction in the English language through the twentieth century. My primary goal for this reflective practitioner document is to incorporate elements of retro science fiction materials to construct a more modern narrative through the creation of an illustrated book. I will do so by partially condensing my vast catalog of science fiction source material, as well as giving some distance to analyze material in cultural context which is much harder to do as history is being actively written around us. The ability to analyze and engage with the previous decades' forays into the distant future can hopefully give us more insight into what they aspired and fretted over from the future through how they chose to present it in the media.


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