The "Royal Ladies' & Gentlemans' Experimental Madness Society" (also known as the RL&GEMS) is a prolific and active Steampunk artist collective based in Chicago and founded by The Lord Baron Joseph C.R. Vourteque IV and The Rev. Captain Samuel Flint in 2008. It currently boasts an inner membership of roughly six and an extended membership of almost twenty.
The RL&GEMS established themselves starting in 2008 through the hosting of a private and "semi-private" soirees at the apartments of members of the collective and on occasion at the Primitive Gallery in downtown Chicago. These soirees are renowned for the caliber of their guests, most of whom are local bohemians also interested in the Steampunk movement or associated artistic movements. They are also known for their lavish wine and cheese spreads.
As a collective the RL&GEMS claims to be "Investigators in the Para-Usual", to date their most visual artistic collaboration has been the "Steampunk Ghost Hunting" kit. Housed in an antique chest, the kit includes a working EMF Reader, EVP Collector, "Aether" Thermo-Meter and a variety of other intricacies. The Steampunk Ghost Hunting kit was also show-cased in at Seattle's Steam-Con in 2009. The equipment is fully functional and the collective is actively planning and executing "actual" ghost hunts with them, with the intention of creating a live stage show based on their findings.
The RL&GEMS also founded the Blog "The Compass Points to M", which was merged into the web magazine "SteampunkChicago.com" in Jan of 2010.
History of the RL&GEMSEdit
In 2008 Sam Perkins-Harbin turned long time friend and local event producer Joe Rovner onto the Steampunk sub-culture. Immediately the two began talking about ideas they had. For the past few years Joe had had an idea for a "Victorian Ghost Hunting Society" he had named "The Royal Ladies' & Gentlemens' Experimental Madness Society". Seeing that Steampunk was the perfect venue for the venture, the two immediately moved forward with an idea to built Steampunk ghost hunting devices, hold actual ghost hunts and then do a stage show based on their findings and the history of the location. For theatrical purpsoes they decided to also take on alter-ego monikers; Sam becoming "The Reverend Captain Samuel Flint" and Joe taking his DJ name "Joe Vor-Tech" and changing it to "Joseph Vourteque".
Over the next few months the two worked on the devices while talking with their friends about the sub-culture. Within a few months other artists such as Bill Holland (aka Mr. Auto-Technical) and Spencer Hutchinson (aka The Variable Dr. N) came on-board to be part of it. In Jan of 2009 Joe began the website "The Compass Points to M" and by late summer 2009 the kit was completed and Joe began promoting the collective to other Steampunk groups and events. Steam-Con showed interest and thus the RL&GEMS show-cased the "EMF Reader" "Aether-Thermo-Meter" and "EVP Recorder" at the massive 2009 convention.
Today the RL&GEMS jointly runs SteampunkChicago.com and continues to host soirees. In January they began a small series of artist show-cases called "La Derniere Soiree" and will have hosted their first major event "Clockwork Vaudeville" at Chicago's EXIT Nightclub on March 13th.
On March 22nd they will hold their first official ghost hunt.
The RL&GEMS, though thematically Steampunk, makes a point of having strong community ties to other artist endeavours in Chicago. They work closely with the Gallery/Boutique "Bonnie & Clydes" and the "Primitive Gallery". They support a number of local artists, regardless of their style, and make a point of bringing like minded individuals together.