My article this week for Dominion Mag pointed out a new appreciation for things goth, darkwave and generally creepy and went into some questions that arose as I looked the situation over. Some answers presented themselves as I wrote, more from reactions to the piece and this acknowlegment of dark creative endeavours contiues to spread with no signs of slowing down. Later this month, the ICA wioll gather boffins together to dissect gothic manifestations of culture in their two day meditation Template for Terror: The Revival of the Gothic.
Quoth the ICA event page:
From Dracula and Frankenstein to Twilight and Shaun of the Dead, contemporary culture continues to appropriate the stock themes of the eighteenth and nineteenth century gothic novel. This weekend of panel discussions, presentations and screenings will explore the societal impulse that draws us to the darker side of life, looking at the influence of the gothic in contemporary art, literature, film and music.
Well, dip my balls in sweet cream and roll me in flour if this doesn’t bring to memory other times Big Art deigned to cast an eye for a brief moment to what the outsiders are doing. Back in the -90′s as the US was climbing slowly put from another foray into the financial ditch, art consultants were traversing the Deep South in search of «Outsider Art», which they would buy in bulk for a song and sell to galleries, collectors and corporate collections for a many-fold profit. When the establishment art world goes on a tourist jaunt to the realms of chaos where things develop and thrive without their patronage, they either clear the land and scorch the earth or colonize the territory. Does anyone remember Altermodern? The conceit was that cultural colonization was coming to an end, both between fine and popular art and between first and third world art.
I addressed this in a post on the kkoagulaa blog:
Hmmm… The Market As Performance Art, Art As Commodity, taste makers seeking for a raison d’etre, journo’s and commentators whipping themselves into a froth. Case in point: Altermodern: Tate Triennial 2009, an event, a declaration and a curator that have the art press twisting themselves inside out. Postmodernism has died a thousand deaths, but we do wait for curators at large institutions in visionary and creative stasis to tell us when the nightmare is over before we accept it.
This connects with an article I posted to Alterati.com around the wild and wooly entertainment spectacular that was the 2008 US election. Admittedly, I held the thing together with spit and duct tape, but those protest didn’t turn out to be more than the prisoner’s last meal before execution, did they? A couple day of noise and the livestock went back to their pens and accepted whatever was handed to them as slops.
What is this all about?
Well, what is presented by living artists at such edifices as the Tate is art sanctioned by the moneyed classes, it either confirms or showcases their control and soothes their sensibilities, or is “edgy” and “provocative” in the same way the jesters filled that function at court. The middle-class identified are often thrown a bone to keep them coming, and to move them to pledge to institutions in the US. (“Middle-class identified includes the actual middle class, but also those who are not middle class financially. There are those groups of low wage earners who don’t get their hands dirty in their work who are encouraged to identify as middle class to keep them on the hamster wheel, as well as retail management proxies who kept the appearance of financial comfort by buying into the credit ponzi scheme which has been the illusion of prosperity from Reagan up to the recent bank and credit collapse.)
That ponzi scheme is being wound down as the dungeon masters of that game are gathring up their pieces and going home. The resulting devastation may have something to do with the appeal of darker forms of expression. Consumers and underground cultural efforts may join the “Useless Eaters” when it all shakes out, but we’ll be making sweet music of the night in our encampments.
Now, I do remember finding Mick Mercer’s Hex Files: The Goth Bible in the anthropology section at the Harvard bookstore. Where this connects for me with the artists emerging outside the established goth scene and outside entities covering them and to varying extents covering the scene is this same establishment way of dealing with outsiders. Where goth promoters, writers and dj’s may be accused of ignoring the new non-scene artists, (n accusation I’m not sure lines up with the actual situation, but it doesn’t hurt us to discuss the matter), when tastes change in our favour, the romance will always be a one-night stand. Whomp, yog-sothoth, thank you Goth…
I want to be clear that I may have come across sharper than I intended on some points. I pulled a quote from The Sky’s Gone Out blog about the commercial peak of goth in the -90′s to point out two of the releases referred to were not goth, though the artists (Peter Murphy and The Sisters), certainly were.
…it was the only time I can remember when music of this particular pedigree was taken with any degree of seriousness by college radio, MTV, or the music press. Instead of The Cure, Siouxsie, Murphy, and the Sisters opening doors, Goth quickly vanished in Grunge’s wake (and a very different sort of earnestness reigned). The commercial torch, if one could said to have been passed, went to Nine Inch Nails, and Manson, who were working from a different angle.
I will give him that point very happily, and I think we largely agree on most points covered on his end. I follow his blog on tumblr because what he writes is very insightful and thought provoking. His conclusion that the scene will be with us for a long time is correct, and I think this crop of dark indie bands and witch house artists offer more promise than the aforementioned NIN and Manson. You should read the rest of the entry and follow his blog if you have any interest in the topic.
Hand-wringing over «Mall-Goths», EBM, or any temporary fling with the greater world of filthy commerce is something we’re strong enough and have genuine enough intentions to safely ignore. But sometimes there are windows of opportunity that should not be dismissed out of cliquishness or fear of being co-opted. The relationship between the noir rock bands and the goth scene bands will develop.
What may transpire at the ICA, I can’t say. I’m interested to find out, and reserve the right to point and ridicule any scholarly misinterpretations I may see.
Linkature on the blinkature:
When the Soviet Union fell many pondered what would happen to the spy agencies and the main strains of paranoia that characterized the cold war period. And what would happen to the spy genre and the archetypical characters who inhabited this oppressive world. Film noir style and atmosphere could be used in a light-hearted manner in a post-historical context, but viewing the original films while living in an empire in fast decline brings out the undercurrent that gives lie to a Father Knows Best view of the -50′s.
There are parallels between with past decade and the mid to late 1950′s, culturally and politically, but the situation is inverted economically. The loans taken out by the Greatest generation (TM) and the baby boomers has come to term with no payments having been sent in in the meantime. The -50′s was the crest of the wave of prosperity and that wave has now crashed against the rocks.
The sunny gloss of -50′s popular culture covered an underbelly crawling with tension, political subterfuge and the gradual intertwining of oranized crime and power. In recent memory the popular culture and media of the West combined a Brave New World tabloid «reality» TV peopled with orange-tanned hedonists coupled with news organizations reduced to being propaganda mouthpieces for the corporate paymasters who own you, me, our government and even our :grass-roots» movements, divided into «left» and «right» wing outlets arguing over whether the populace should be drinking political and economic bleach or gasoline. Different substances, same outcome.
My own perspective may singular in its vantage point. I have been working nearly three decades of working with the Lord of Hallucinations, so it may logically follow that I should find my consciousness invaded by disturbances, hypnagogic impressions and that I would be drawn to projects that inhabit dream worlds. Film noir, german expressionism, electronic voice phenomena and hauntology inhabit different countries in the same dark parallel world. The haunted landscape of Witch House is the dread beneath the crumbling suburban veneer, just as the world of the films of Harmony Korinne lifts the lid of the psyche of that majority of people who were left out of even the boom times.
As with Cirxus, its theme of nuclear meltdown and utopian promises was met with dismissal from some corners with a notion that the nuclear energy question was one settled in the favour of the industry. Now we have the nuclear disaster in Japan and it turns out many of our facilities are similarly vulnerable. So it is with dreams and monsters that for a few generations have seemed to be innocent and hokey. Zombies grab our collective imagination, and witches are potent archetypes in one subculture and another subculture is hard at work trying to bring literal witch hunts back elsewhere on the globe with a view to importing them back here. A possible dystopian future could be as much The Crucible and the rat-infested Nosferatu as Mad Max, and the mood is definitely dread and maximum schreck…
The stories we tell play a role far greater than to make the period between shift at work pass by more quickly. They help us interpret our reality and more importantly, to shape it.
Strange Factories is FoolishPeople’s first feature film, which explores the power of stories and myths and how they are ultimately given life by those who engage with them.
We would like you to become part of our story. You’re a crucial element of how this project is produced, created and experienced.
Join our IndieGoGo campaign and become a part of the ‘Strange Factories’ story.
A special thank you to Arban Severin, designer and maker of the Punch mask.
Because I can leave no idle idea alone, I’ve created a soundtrack to “Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror”, the silent masterpiece by F.W. Murnau. I realize dozens of folks have done the same, but I’m actually quite proud of this one. I may do something with this with much better sound and picture quality. If I had a dvd burner, I’d let a chosen few of you have a full quality disc of it. I may yet be able to do something about it.
the approach was inspired by the Dogme 95 manofesto. Now, using so much technology probably makes it anathema to its adherents, but my mode of working is never pure, but, Harmony Korinne fanatic that I am, I feel an affinity to the movement. I had several limitations in doing this, as my hard drive is almost full, and I’ll be needing to send a bunch of large image files out in the coming week. Therefore, my first rule was only to use sounds I already had on my hard drive. This was easy, as what I have taking up space are the audio tracks from the Veil Of Thorns album I’ve just completed. What you’ll hear is 90% vocals with much less processing than it sounds like.
Secondly, I gave myself a timelimit of eight hours to create and sync the audio to the movie file. You can hear just the audio by downloading from the link above. You can download a windows media version by right clicking the image and saving, or you can watch it on the Veil Of Thorns Myspace page.
It’s actually taken me longer to render the movie than it took to write the music(k), which was fine, as I had lots of drawing I wanted to get done. More on that later.
The Vampire theme may make me goth at last.
For those few of you who haven’t seen countless versions of thos film, I include part of the wikipedia entry:
This was the first film of the production company Prana-Film GmbH; it was also the last as they declared bankruptcy after Bram Stoker’s estate—acting for his widow, Florence Stoker—sued for copyright infringement (plagiarism) and won. The court ordered all existing prints of Nosferatu destroyed, but a number of copies of the film had already been distributed around the world. These prints were then copied over the years, resulting in Nosferatu gaining a reputation as one of the greatest movie adaptations of the vampire legend.
With the influence of producer and production designer, Albin Grau, the film established one of two main lines of vampire depiction in movies. The “Nosferatu-type” is a living corpse with rodent features (especially elongated fingernails and incisors), associated with rats and plague, and neither charming nor erotic but totally repugnant. The victims usually die and are not turned into vampires themselves. The more common other line is the “Dracula-type” (established by Bela Lugosi’s version of Dracula and perpetuated by Christopher Lee), a charming aristocrat adept at seduction and turning his victims into new vampires.
Parts of the film allegedly showing Transylvania were filmed in Slovakia. Nosferatu’s castle, for instance, is Orava Castle in northern Slovakia, and other locations are in the High Tatras and on the Váh River around Strečno Castle.
The shadow of the vampire is seen climbing stairs in this famous scene from the movieMurnau’s Nosferatu is in the public domain, and copies of the movie are widely available on video—usually as poorly transferred, faded, scratched video copies that are often scorned by enthusiasts. However, pristine restored editions of the film have also been made available, and are also readily accessible to the public.