Phantom Plane, Cyberpunk in the Year of the Future (1)
Phantom Plane, Cyberpunk in the Year of the Future (2)
Phantom Plane, Cyberpunk in the Year of the Future (3)
Phantom Plane, Cyberpunk in the Year of the Future (4)
Phantom Plane, Cyberpunk in the Year of the Future (5)
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Cyberpunk connections: Navigating love, loss, and reality in a digital age

Cyberpunk as a literary genre achieved cultural relevance in the 1980s in response to “progress” enabled by the convergence of unrestrained technological advances and unshackled corporate expansion brought on by the deregulations introduced by Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher. The Ridley Scott-directed movie Blade Runner of 1982 and William Gibson’s 1984 book Neuromancer are credited with defining and popularising cyberpunk. The movie Blade Runner was set in the year 2019, so we are now living in that Year of the Future, hence the second part of the title of this exhibition. 

Cyberpunk was first developed in cinema, video games, manga, animation, and graphic novels, and it explored the effects of technology on our relationships with each other at both individual and societal levels.

Cyberpunk aesthetics require sprawling mega-cities with flying cars, giant neon ads and densely packed skyscrapers. But the allure ends with the erotic but cheapening ads for geisha girls, the crumbling infrastructure, pollution, graffiti, and street crime. The have-nots are excluded from the safe, luxurious enclaves enjoyed by the super-rich. Instead, the have-nots are preyed upon by hustlers dealing in illegal tech and street gangs composed of green-haired, leather-clad techno punks decked out with cyborg enhancements and high on synthetic drugs. The weather is always dreary. It is a fitting representation of capitalism gone horribly wrong. The Phantom Plane exhibition at JC Contemporary in Tai Kwun examines why this representation of the mega-city still endures today.

Cyberpunk originated as a critic of certain power structures and a warning to the dangers of unrestrained technological advances and unchecked corporate expansion. This exhibition is as relevant today as it was in the 1980s because cyberpunk has not provided an answer for how we use technology to improve our relationships.

Text & Photos Martin Wray