Atompunk: fetishizing the atomic age

Atompunk: a new Dutch movement dedicated to the appreciation of atomic-age aesthetics. They're having an exhibition in Amsterdam next September:

About Atompunk the cultural period 1945-1965,

Atompunk is a strictly pre-digital period, but it includes mid-century Modernism, the "Atomic Age," the "Space Age," and, especially, lots of Communism and communism paranoia in the USA. Communist analog atompunk is an ultimate lost world.

Sovjet styling, underground cinema, Googie architectuur, Space and Sputnik, moonlanding, superhero-comi, art & radioactivity, the rise of the US military/industrial complex & the fall-out of Tsjernobyl

Here Comes "Atompunk." And It's Dutch. So there

Update: Michael Reeve sends in this reminder of the Victoria & Albert Museum's Cold War Weekend starting tomorrow in London!


  1. You mean all that lucite stuff in the lobby of Stovall’s Inn of Tomorrow and Wonderland of Topiary Trees would now be fashionable if it had survived?

  2. Retro-Futurist? Raygun Gothic? Populuxe? Googie?
    Plenty of names out there already for this stuff, and i think i like ’em all more than Atompunk.

    although, i am happy with the notion of Wally Wood and all this kinda stuff being in vogue again, even if for purely personal reasons.


  3. this isn’t making me cringe as much as steampunk but I should reserve judgement until it’s been posted about more than once in a week.

  4. ‘Atompunk’? Really? Isn’t ‘Atomic Age’ enough of a descriptor in this case?

    I can’t wait for ‘Depressionpunk’ to come into vogue for all things ‘Depression Era’.

  5. Really. Can we retire “punk” as a suffix already? We get it, some people are obsessed with certain era’s, be they fictional or real, but does that mean we have to call the manifestations of each obsession “______punk.” I don’t think so. It’s not helpful in understanding the movement’s foundations. In fact, when I first heard of “steampunk” and now “atompunk” I was honestly confused.

  6. Takuan, when you divorce an aesthetic from vaguely punk foundations (i.e. steampunk), it ceases being punk, and it becomes a little odd, then, to start calling every period-obsession “punk.” I’m ok with the term steampunk because it has a long history prior to existing merely as an aesthetic, but creating a new aesthetic, or, uh, concentrating on an old aesthetic and then calling it “punk” is nonsensical and disingenuous. I don’t have to offer up a better alternative just to state my opinion. And it is just that, my opinion.

  7. No, no, no. It will always be Atomic Age or Space Age. It has always been called that for years. Nothing more, nothing less. Been using these terms to find certain things on eBay.

  8. atom-ish? atom-ick? atom-again? atom-agian?

    I regularly bore my kids (I regularly bore my kids).

    I regularly bore my kids telling them that when I was a child there were no push-buttons (at least not here – all we had were knobs and switches… Does atompunk extend to push-buttons?

  9. As for -punk, I think that the use of the suffix “punk” implies that the -punks are *reenactors*, bringing a punk-like DIY sensibility to their appreciation of whatever period they’re punking.

  10. Atomicpunk is pretty pointless.. steampunk had some of the DIY ethic, combined with victorian styling which gave it a “punk” air.

    Here it’s not particularly apropos, given that most of the atomic age articles are mass produced. Although modding a typewriter with a pair of rocket fins could be damn cool.

    I’d say a name like neo-atomists would be interesting.. although I don’t know how well it would fit in with the Atomist philosophy.

    “everything is made of Atoms”, so I fetishize it.

    Atomheads maybe?

  11. I agree with TAHEWITT, perhaps not in the same exact way. I have no problems with the -punk part, and it does speak to a certain DIY sensibility, but the term ‘atompunk’ does grate on me the wrong way. So, while it may not be a direct replacement, may I put forth the following: nuke-punk and rad-punk.

  12. #18 and #26: the “punk” in steampunk comes from the anti-authoritarian leanings of the novels from which the steampunk aesthetic/culture was garnered. The zeitgeist of the 60’s and 70’s, the period in which steampunk was born, decided “punk” as the suffix. If it had arisen today, as has atompunk, “punk” would be an unlikely candidate for the suffix as sane people stopped branding everything with even a slight anti-establishment or anti-authority leaning as “punk” years ago. Should we call furries, even the kinky branch, fur-punks because they make their own furry suits and act like animals?

  13. Should we call furries, even the kinky branch, fur-punks because they make their own furry suits and act like animals?


  14. i suppose if i start seeing laptops and scooters and apparel , and whatever else people can fiddle with, tricked out with custom gear to make it look like it walked off the set of Flash Gordon, then yeah, i suppose i can accept this “atompunk”

    but it’s gotta be CUSTOM, or at least repurposed, or else it’s just good ol’ Raygun Gothic, or some other existing term for Populuxe-style designs.


  15. I am a victim of the science age
    A child of the storm. Whoa, yes
    I can’t remember when I was your age
    For me! It says no more, no more
    Nobody rules these streets at night but me
    The Atomic Punk
    Oh, yeah. Ah-ah!

  16. “Atomique,” because the Atomium is just down the road (I live in Amsterdam) and because it’s a reminder that the Atomic Age wasn’t just an Anglo-American (and Soviet) trope.

    March to August will include Yuri Night, 12 April, so that fits in. Unfortunately, there’s no Atomique architecture to speak of here in Amsterdam. Populuxe is strictly American, since only the US was relatively prosperous in the 1950s. The Netherlands was undergoing its own, mostly Marshall Plan-driven economic revival, but they never took to the soaring, angular Populuxe style. The closest thing to Populuxe was in Brussels, for Expo 58. And the Dutch liked Bauhaus, because it was cheap.

    I’m still a bit sick that I was out of town last September for GOGBOT, a technickal festival in Enschede, because the theme was Steampunk. I guess I still have a chance to check out some of it, because the Art Kitchen has a show by one of the artists from GOGBOT. So I’ll mark my calendar for next September.

  17. Disingenuous is the word for cultivating “punk” where it doesn’t belong. The word has lost it’s meaning… well, taken on a much broader one.


  18. #29 posted by Clayton –
    #18 and #26: the “punk” in steampunk comes from the anti-authoritarian leanings of the novels from which the cyberpunk aesthetic/culture was garnered. The zeitgeist of the 60’s and 70’s and 80’s, the period in which cyberpunk was born, decided “punk” as the suffix.


  19. Fallout 3 hit on Atompunk feeling well, 50s era. Granted it is also set in a post-apocalyptic, atomic, irradiated wasteland…

  20. Can we start calling appreciation for gay porn “dickpunk”?

    Personally, I like cats. I’m a catpunk.

  21. Why is it “punk!” enough already!

    call it something else please

    But I agree, the new fashion is to dress up like someone from a Ray Bradbury adaptation

  22. The term atompunk makes me think of early/mid eighties punk and hardcore bands, writing in and about the cold war, nuclear threat, etc. And Repo Man. I really like the aesthetic though, of Atomic Age design or whatever it’s called.

  23. I agree that the practice of sticking ‘punk’ at the end of random words needs to stop.

    Steampunk is clearly the umbrella term now, so this then is ‘Atomic Steampunk.’

  24. @ SINGULARITER, #28: Genius! THIS era, in which it has become almost a fetish in itself to fetishize other eras, shall now be known as “concatenationpunk.” All the coolest kids will, in an ironic manner, re-enact all of us re-enacting other time periods.

    See also “metapunk.”

  25. This kind of reminds me of how annoyed my brother used to get at game reviewers who insisted on adding ‘-em-up’ as a a suffix to describe every game they ever wrote about.

    Beat-em-up = cyberpunk
    Shoot-em-up = steampunk
    Point-and-click-em-up = atompunk

    I always found it quite amusing, because I didn’t take it as seriously as he did. I think that’s the key here – calling stuff steampunk was surely supposed to be a bit of a humorous take on the cyberpunk cliche. Taking the term seriously is where everyone went wrong.

    Calling stuff atompunk pretty much opens the floodgates – whether intentionally or not, labelling every era/object fetish you come across as a variation on an ’80s dystopian future is quite funny and just invites parody. Not that I don’t like a lot of the actual stuff that’s come out of the genre, but contrived pigeonholing will always make me laugh.

  26. We are a generation of greedy identity-hogs.

    It started with white suburban kids listening to rap, but other peoples’ current cultures wasn’t enough to plunder. We started robbing other times in history for identity too (American Apparel’s 70’s chic is an equally flagrant, if more mainstream example of these ____ – punks). We’ve even appropriated from imaginary worlds and great works of fiction.

    We can never seem to just appreciate, we have to become-it (whatever it is).

  27. Obviously, after atompunk comes Watergatepunk, combining the DIY ethos of punk with the fashion sensibility of the Nixon administration.

  28. Suffixes be damned and all, I think this stuff is pretty cool. As long as it acknowledges the original artists and their intentions with their designs, I’m into it. If it’s more cultural mash-ups….Y’know,someone could make a lot of money creating a kind of cultural slot machine program for artists to create new movements.

  29. Speaking of worn out punk culture… Am I the only one who’s disturbed to see 15-year-old’s walking around in “classic” punk attire, sporting patches for bands that haven’t released albums or toured in the last 20 years?
    Of all the traditions to keep alive… What do you call it when iconoclastic culture becomes canonized? Shouldn’t all those Dead Kennedy’s and Ramones and Operation Ivy patches implode under the strain of their own self-reflexive anti-establishment symbolism, leaving but a few lingering wisps of bitter vapors behind?
    Maybe I just don’t understand the meaning of the word “punk”.

  30. Steampunk made more sens since early steampunk stories were almost exactly the same as cyberpunk stories- except for the time setting and technology involved. Even used the same writers (The Difference Engine).

    Of course, I was immediately made to think of another William Gibson story- “The Gernsback Continuum” when I saw this article. Which would be where the term “raygun gothic” comes, at least as my earliest sighting of it. Which sounds way better, but less all- encompassing (seems to just refer to architecture)

    feh. in the end Atompunk sounds like a 4th tier badguy from 60’s era Hulk comics.

  31. It’s a bit misleading to use a picture of Disneyland in Anaheim, CA when you’re talking about an exhibition in Amsterdam.

    That picture shows part of the Space Mountain sign, the Coke-dispensing rocket, the Innovation building, and, in the background, the queue structure for Autopia.

  32. Who the hell names this stuff?
    When 80’s New Wave nostalgia comes into vogue (again), are we going to call it Punkpunk?

  33. This is like Rocketeer-ear stuff, right?

    I’m a bigger fan of retro-punk. That’s the aesthetic where you dress retro simply by wearing clothes that are at least ten years old.

  34. Can we start calling appreciation for gay porn “dickpunk”?

    Are you dense? It’s (s)punk.


  35. #52, yeah, when i lived in KC, i used to fantasize about somehow getting that rocket to my house.


  36. I agree with many above; “____punk” applies perfectly to many styles, but not this. It isn’t transgressive or smells in the least of teen spirit.


  37. I kinda like “atompunk”. Not the word, but the look and ideas. Hardly new, as the Fallout series has pretty much gotten the post apocalyptic 1950’s look down. If you want to get in on this just make your own pipboy 3000 and you’re all set.

  38. I am fantasted. Not one of you figured out that it’s called “Atompunk” because that’s what the people in this art movement are calling it? Cory didn’t make up the word; they did. They’re the ones constructing the synthesis. They’re making the art. They get to call it whatever they want, and what they want to call it is Atompunk.

    I was going to disemvowel a bunch of the comments in this thread for making the same point over and over again, but now I think I’ll just leave the whole thing up as a monument.

    Nword @20:

    Atomicpunk is pretty pointless.. steampunk had some of the DIY ethic, combined with victorian styling which gave it a “punk” air.

    Here it’s not particularly apropos, given that most of the atomic age articles are mass produced.

    Wrong. The cars with the big fins were mass-produced, and so were the printed yard goods, but most of the High Atomic Populuxe artifacts were one-offs or short runs.

  39. I still stand by my point that Atompunk flat out sounds stupid. I don’t care who coined it, it sounds dumb.

  40. Teresa, having spent the last several years creating art that blends 50’s sci-fi with punk, country, and various other influences, i think i’m allowed to say i don’t like the moniker if i want to, since it will no doubt be applied in some ways to me.

    that said, it IS growing on me. acceptance is nearing.


  41. Takuan, credit granted. The logistics of a tummy rub are beyond me.

    Ogvor: Tomorrowland, the Carousel of Progress, the 1960s Las Vegas Strip, the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, and a stippling of other spots all over the First World.

    Baldhead: We heard you the first time.

    Tony Moore: Acceptance is probably good. You want to spend your time and energy making art, not rowing against the tide on the question of what to call it.

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