Long for a bygone era that never was of elegance, adventure and glorious gadgetry? Then you may be one of the steampunk subculture growing across America. In Atlanta, one of the prime organizers of activities for aficinados of steampunk is The Artifice Club, founded by DJ and master event planner Doctor Q. Over the past six months or so, the Artifice Club has put on a number of affairs both independently and as part of other steampunk and alt-history gatherings such as Anachrocon.
This Saturday April 16, however, The Artifice Club is pulling out all the stops to present The Clockwork Carnival, a veritable steampunk circus featuring a night full of gypsies, fire eaters and other curiosities at The Goat Farm. Featured acts encompass who’s who of entertainers in the vibrant local scene including The Imperial Opa, Hot Toddies Flaming Cabaret, the amazing aerial feats of Blast-Off Burlesque‘s Sadie Hawkins, Thimblerig Circus, Pyro Salto of Birmingham, AL, music by DJs Doctor Q and The Davenport Sisters, and more. Also planned are a Vendor’s Market Caravan, photography sessions, The Circus Contraption Contest with prizes awarded for the most creative device you would need to work at a carnival, and a steampunk costume contest to crown the King and Queen of the Carnival. Festivities start at 4 PM and will last into the very wee hours of the night, we suspect.
ATLRetro askedRingmaster and DJ extraordinaire Doctor Q for a sneak preview of the fabulous festivities, and he kindly obliged…
How did you come up with the idea for the Clockwork Carnival and what sets it apart from previous Atlanta steampunk events?
I came up with the idea for the Carnival originally as a way to showcase all the amazing acts and artists I know that fit the theme. I spoke with them all, assuming that I’d get maybe half of the talent to showcase as I approached, but almost all of them loved the idea. And the only one that couldn’t make it was because of a travel conflict, and I will be putting them in another show as soon as I can.
As far as how it fits with the other steampunk events, that’s hard to say. A lot of steampunk events are done in town, and I am proud to be a part of many of them. But for the shows that the Artifice Club puts on as solo endeavors – that is to say, not a part of any convention or a larger collaboration – my goal is to make them both steampunk and with a theme open enough to bring new people and fresh eyes into the subculture. And so I thought a carnival theme would work, and I filled the billing with as much as I could to bring as many people into the show as possible. My hope is that with each event, more people get exposed to the fun and creativity that the steampunk subculture brings, and if not, still have a great night enjoying one hell of a party.
Steampunk is all about the junction of Victorian sensibility and gadgetry/alternative, more civilized science, but the idea of a steampunk circus or carnival seems pervasive in the subculture, too. Why do you think that is?
Because steampunk doesn’t have to be in any one box or defined by any one person’s set of rules for one. For me, steampunk has become a catch-all buzzword to point to something that is retrofuturistic, or science fiction but not, or simply just retro with some modern anachronisms thrown in, and label it steampunk and call it good. As long as you do something, be it costume, art, music, what have you, with a mind inspired by the past but using those tools in a way that is new and innovative, you’re likely to get it right. But I am a very big sandbox, all-inclusive type of person.
Though to more directly address the why and wherefore, it could be perhaps because the dawn of the travelling circus is completely within the time frame of our favorite era. With characters like PT Barnum, and the notion of riding the rails of the new locomotive and embarking on a travelling show, or the rising popularity of carnival shows in general, [all] have a great late Victorian bent to it, going all the way through to the turn of the century and into the Twenties, all of which steampunks can relate to. I just hope I do it justice.
How did you select the performers, or are Artifice Club events now so legendary that people simply contact you to get on the bill?
I am very, very lucky to know a lot of talented people. And I have the aid of Talloolah Love to help scout those I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Each act was hand-picked and personally approached because I knew their art would fit well with the show, and that their entertainment value would amaze and delight the crowd. I have no doubt each and every act will impress those people who come out to the show.
What is it about steampunk that appeals to you personally and inspired you to become so involved in and passionate about it as a way of life/subculture?
Like a lot of people, I loved steampunk before I knew there was a word for it. I’ve always been fond of times gone by, and the individualistic forms of expression steampunk gives folks are a breath of fresh air compared to the almost uniform look of other subculture styles. Contrary to what the Internet may say, steampunk does not have to be brown, does not need goggles, and doesn’t need to be covered in gears. The people that get into the costumes create characters all their own, with gadgets or a multicultural angle that has clear allusions to history, but also is imagined in a world that could have been our own, but just missed the mark. This alternate history viewpoint is critical, as is the need for individual expression. This personal streak—the punk in steampunk if you will—is what makes the genre cross so many things beyond fashion and literature. We have steampunk-themed dance troupes, musicians, artists in almost every medium, both traditional and digital, and even the humble DJ and event producer trying to show off what all these amazing people can do.
What one aspect of or thing happening at the Clockwork Carnival are you personally looking forward to the most and why?
I can’t pick a favorite. Perhaps what I am most looking forward to is the atmosphere. My vision was to take the Goat Farm, this gorgeous venue space, and fill it with costumed characters and carnival acts so that when you walk in, you feel like you’re a part of a Carnival from another time. We’ll have the live music of the Imperial Opa’s house band, the Snatchov Orchestra (formerly the Opa Czars) kicking things off for the main event, then we will have act after act, from the comedic trio of Thimblerig Circus, to the aerialist stylings of Sadie Hawkins, to the fiery displays of Burning Desire Fire Theater (formerly Pyro Salto) of Birmingham, and the incredible Hot Toddies Flaming Cabaret.
I mean this is all grade A amazing talent. All this, plus the famed Davenport Sisters from the Clockwork Cabaret Radio Show coming down to help me. This party will be on a scale grander than I have ever planned and ever hoped possible. I just cannot wait to roll up and bring this show into town.