JF Ptak Science Books Post 2518 Part of the History of the Future series
- [This image is similar to one that I wrote about in September 2014 for the Mensa Bulletin, here]
Theodor Hosemann was a cartoonist, book illustrator, caricaturist and social commentator--but more interestingly, for today, he was edgy visioneer. The lithograph, "Extrabeilage zu Nr. 24 des Gewerbeblatt vom 24. Januar 1947", is Hosemann's somewhat noir-y vision of the future from his perch in 1847. His sense of the future "wirklickeit'/reality from where I sit here in 2015 is mostly bumpy and uncomfortable--it may have been funny in a fatalistic manner when the "brave" artist constructed the piece, perhaps like a forbidding fairy tale; if so then Hosemann was a jagged comic.
It seems there are to me an equal number of found/lost elements in the image. The most obvious prognostications are the two steam vehicles/dampfwagen in the lower right, passing each other at the entrance of the engineering marvel that would have been a tunnel through the Alps. The anthropomorphic horseless carriage in the shape of a horse, steaming to the entrance, is driven by a guy who is (I guess) smoking a cigarette (as are several other people). Odd thing here is that the ciggie had just been introduced into France and named just a few years earlier, and here it is in the lips of a pater familias cruising with his family--his child flying a kite from the back seat--as they make their way to a trans-European ride. The steam vehicle exiting the tunnel is driven by a hooded figure whose three passengers are in various stages of welcoming teh new sights: one has a heavy headdress and is adorned by large steampunk goggles, while the woman seated behind him is having a private moment of some sort of exasperation; meanwhile the guy traveling on the roof of the car has just been hooked through the nose by a woman at teh tunnel top, seemingly fishing for, well, something.
The most visible object is mysterious--the long skeleton at top is composed of bone, sausage, forks, spoons, morphing ducks, spoon vertebrae, plates, knives, corks, a champagne flute and a bottle. I'm unsure of the allegory.
In the upper left corner we see women taking the waters, immersed in a hydrotherapy of something-or-other from a "healing source". A man beneath him lifts his hat to reveal a wild head of hair produced presumably from the bottle of "balsam" in his hand--hair tonic that has produced a giant mane plus hair sprouting out everywhere else. The man seated before him is beginning his meal on some sort of bird by pulling its eyeball out.
The central figures are particularly engaging, and perhaps prophetic. At the top of this little structure is a Punch/Judy-like character with marionettes (standing beneath a sign that extols us not to laugh at bad jokes). He is also lazily seated on jars of babies. It may be that they are children being produced in artificial wombs, grown somehow, as beneath them we find more fully-formed children in cages being lectured by a classic schoolmaster with book-and-whip. Perhaps related to all of this in the foreground we find the "wonder child" who at seven years of age is very muscled and defeating grown men in a wrestling match,m one of whom he has thrown into the air with one arm. Perhaps Hosemann was telling us of the possible future from 68 years ago where a race of super-people would be manufactured in artificial environments to embody super-human traits? Certainly seems so.
So Hosemann did get a few things right in this vision, or at least he got the sense of future developments correct. I still have a bit of a problem with what I think is the humor of it all, but then again I wouldn't read the fairy tells of the Brothers Grimm to a little kid, either. It is difficult to translate those sensibilities forward 175 years, for me, anyway, the sense of 'funny" and the insight that comes from that getting lost in the swirl of historic dust, like mostly all of the "amusing" parts of books (not the movie!) like Pinocchio, where the soft places to land in this child's story have all fallen away leaving not much more than a fledgling adventure in rounded brutalism.