(All images via Tom Wigley, reproduced with permission)
In the years prior to the dawning of the new millenium, there was an intense exitement for what the year 2000 might hold for the world. Science fiction writers have long expressed their visions of the future in their work. H.G. Wells did so in The Time Machine, while George Orwell examined an altogether more dystopian future in Nineteen Eighty-Four. But less well known – and every bit as inspired – are French artist Villemard’s 1910 postcards showcasing his vision of Parisian life in the year 2000.
Titled “Utopie”, Villemard’s retro art is almost steampunk in style despite pre-dating that movement by at least 50 years. Projecting his ideas of 21st century life onto the technology of the time, Villemard conjures a world that, as Keith Wagstaff writes in the Utopianist, is actually pretty accurate, predicting electric trains, monorails and teleconferencing, to name just a few.
In the top image, a teacher feeds books into a meat grinder to be served up to the class in the form of digital knowledge – thus envisioning the podcast, as Wagstaff points out. The vintage postcard above goes even further, as an architect programs robot workers to build his newly designed structure. Not a far cry from modern manufacturing, you might think. And in fact, a robot was used to build a wall in lower Manhattan last year, as BLDGBLOG explains.
Flying machines, which were in their infancy in 1910, feature prominently in Villemard’s work. But far from simply getting airborne, these aircraft were manoeverable enough to fly through a wine bar and pick up “one for the road”. We might not be quite there yet, but Villemard’s vintage postcards also predicted helicopters patrolling the skies Big Brother style, as well as sea planes. The latter came in the form of a large boat held aloft by two Zeppelin-style air balloons, but the principle is undeniable.
Some of the funniest, least sensible and, as Wired reports, banned products in Villemard’s future vision are the gas powered roller skates. In fact, the postcard visualises the reason for their seizure by British customs in what Wired described as “a convulsion of bureaucratic nannyjabber”. Capable of reaching 20 mph, British civil servants, invoking increasingly tough health and safety regulations, feared the skates were too dangerous for the general public and said they had to go.
Other vinatge postcards depicting flying cops may not yet have been achieved in the real world, but Hollywood featured them in films like Minority Report. Police motorcycles and Segways, meanwhile, are a common site today, while tanks emerged a few years after 1910 during World War One. Did their designers perhaps see the genious in Villemard’s postcard, in which two retro automobiles sporting Gatling guns blast each other on a country lane? It might be a somewhat satirical take on the utopian concept, but it’s a fun and remarkably insightful vision of 2000 told through the lens of 1910. (Image credit: Tom Wigley.)
Vintage Posters Discovered in Abandoned London Tube Station
Vintage Magazines Photographed in Abandoned Victorian Reform School
Creative Character Animation and Digital Illustration by Denis Zilber