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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.


Mulch by P. Emerson Williams

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.

Replied Jason Pitzl-Waters in part:

…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.

Deathless by P. Emerson Williams

Deathless by P. Emerson Williams

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: