My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture, and things in the broader realm of the Gothic and darkly Romantic. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

Goth is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, the expression of that in Goth rock. It looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Siouxsie, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, et al) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. The Gothic should not be limited by what is already within it; inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Monday, 10 November 2014

Gothic Dublin

My official Domesticated Goth e-mail inbox gets a lot of requests. Half the time, they get buried under all the chaos of my life. One thing that popped up was a request on behalf of ::Visit Dublin:: about a promotion of the Gothic aspects of the city. As my blog shows, I am quite a fan of Gothic tourism, especially when it comes to cities with beautiful buildings and fascinating history. Most of my travels since starting this blog have been confined to Scotland, but I have been to Ireland in the past, briefly staying in Dublin, visiting Glendalough as a teen, and having a more extended stay in Cork with Raven's family (his aunt is lovely and let us stay at her place). 

Graphic used with permission

This is from the ::Gothic Heart of Dublin:: guide to Gothic culture in Dublin.  I'm quite a fan of the graphic; I'd probably buy one if I went there and could get them as souvenirs. 

I only stayed in Dublin for a night, and I got there late and left early; I did not get to see much of the city. It's certainly somewhere I would love to visit properly, so when I got the e-mail, I had a good look to think of places to put on the itinerary if I went again. I saw that the Dominion club night was not on the flier, and in looking it up found out that it is on indefinite hiatus. I have no idea what happened to it, but I had heard good things about it and was looking forward to some good clubbing if I ever got there! The gargoyles and Gothic architecture sound like exactly the sort of thing I would go to a city to see! 

This was aimed at the Bram Stoker festival that has just passed (did any of my Irish readers go to that? Any of my readers travel to Ireland for it?) but I presume that most of the sights and entertainment are fairly permanent fixtures. Where else would any readers who are familiar with Dublin recommend? Who has already been to Dublin? Maybe next year, or the year after, or whenever we next travel to Ireland (and with Raven's family being there, there will probably be a next time, eventually...) I will go to Dublin, take in a few of the sights and sites mentioned and return with some more photographs for the blog. 

Acceptance, Defiance and Difference

Is mainstream acceptance a blessing, or does it mean that we can no longer engage in sartorial protest against the failings of the mainstream?

This post was inspired by my musings after watching the section on not wanting to be acceptable in ::this:: video by Jwlhyfer de Winter.

Personally, most of the long-term Goths I've met have been more about keeping true to their selves, their unusual fascination with the dark, the macabre, the sinister, in the face of opposition of a society that feared and loathed those things than engaging in an active rebellion; wanting to shock and 'be a rebel' always seemed the realm of teenagers for whom Goth was a means to express teenage angst and rail against the world as it is revealed to be deeply unfair, rather than a core motivation of the subculture. I've often argued that no, we're not in it to shock, we're not in it for the attention, we're just here to enjoy our own thing, that it is purely motivated by a desire to express ourselves, our interests and passions and our creativity. 

But Goth evolved from Punk, and Punk involved fashion as a political statement, and Goth as well - it was a deliberate embracing of imagery and symbolism that was provocative; it was making a statement, yet I was not even born yet when people declared "punk is dead", and while the subculture and values will probably never die, I think Punk's viability as a counterculture rather than subculture has wained.  

Partly, times have simply moved on, and actions and fashions that were once capable of being a viable statement of more than just one's sartorial proclivities are now seen as simply being shocking for attention, and possibly ticket and music sales - a publicity stunt, either personal or as an entertainer. Marilyn Manson's criticisms of the church and society are largely ignored as his shock rock is seen as a way to titillate, provoke and make him an awful lot of money. That sort of thing is nothing new! I think it was Paganini who helped propagate rumours that he had sold his soul to the devil for his talents, because it boosted concert attendance - people wanted to hear the devil play - and Marilyn Manson, the "antichrist superstar" can be seen as not that different. This is not to say I don't like Marilyn Manson (or Paganini), but that their very attempts to shock us with a message can get cynically dismissed, and the message becomes lost.

Fashion as a means to shock is loosing it's power too - even Lady GaGa's most ridiculous outfits, while they initially were discussed by the media as so daring, or making a mockery, or even disgusting (the infamous "meat dress"), discussion of her clothes has been relegated to the gossip papers, and she no longer shocks, if she ever really did. Discussions as to whether her whole stage persona was an elaborately self-parodying send-up of the pop-industry became discussion of her as just another pop-star. She's probably one of the few pop musicians whose output I like (at least her earlier tracks) and I appreciated the dark aesthetic of many of her videos, but the question of whether she was really creating a tapestry of thickly woven satire, parody and irony behind her 'poker face' or whether she was simply another person looking for fame and stardom by being as dramatic and weird and shocking as possible is as yet to be resolved - personally, I think the lyric content of her songs points that she is in fact creating her own artistic of protest of the very establishment of popular entertainment that sustains her. 

Neither of the two artists above are Goth, though, and although I think that they have definitely been influenced by the Gothic aesthetic, if not the subculture, and have then themselves, in their prominence in the parent cultural mainstream, fed back into the subculture. This is mostly because the bands and musicians who became famous enough to make a visible musical and political statement and who fit as Punks or Goths (or whom were labeled as such) did so either before I was born, or before I was old enough to understand what was going on, and that contemporary bands are working within an established genre and subculture rather than breaking new ground in terms of their ethos - even if people are certainly continuing to be original musically. 

It does not seem to me that shock tactics are really going to work in a world that has had decades to get used to Punks and Goths, and the only people who will be shocked are those who are comparatively conservative by the standards of the mainstream, and more is being done to change them by time and progress and by their ideology being challenged than by us dressing in the most morbid black and proclaiming our love for what they will find outrageous - that tends to get us vilified more than achieve actual change.

As a teen, I adopted Goth as a means to annoy those around me who tried to force me to conform to a set of values that did not suit me - those who were homophobic, religiously intolerant, those who tried to stifle my creativity, deny my differences, and force me to be something they would accept but was alien to my self. My sartorial defiance of the rules  as a teenager, brought upon me a whole heap of erroneous assumptions, and my power to shock was far outweighed by the power of others to make my life miserable - it only made my immediate situation worse. I might have been defiant and I will still never change who I am to suit others - but I also did not change those around me; I simply outlasted them and moved away and moved on. It taught me a lesson in resilience, but it did nothing to alter those who already disliked me, rather it provoked some into actually despising me and it was confrontational enough to simply further entrench them. All I can be is living proof that the were wrong. 

With the shock value taken away, it means that instead of reacting to something provocative, those who come across us have the emotional distance to listen more carefully to the statements we want to make; I think we can deliver a sartorial message that is more subtle, but no less potent. Our clothes speak of embracing our own mortality, looking unflinchingly at that which can terrify us, of embodying our demons to overcome them, of drawing power from the symbolism of witches, vampires and zombies and using those symbols and concepts as lenses and metaphors for the world around us, we can walk around as dark reversal of the bright colours of the old aristocracy; we can be the portraits of Dorian Grey, and as we are not trying to shout in the face of the world, we can do all this and be listened to - Jillian Venters is onto something with her "subversion through politeness". 

I prefer our being accepted, or at least tolerated by the mainstream, because it's frankly a lot better than the constant harassment and threats of violence (often escalating to actual violence ) that I, and other Goths used to face (and depending on location, still face), and how I got treated as if I was genuinely an evil degenerate, the revulsion, the way people looked down on me. I don't want others to be bullied, harassed or attacked - I don't want them to suffer the same ire and disrespect as I did, that's part of why I write this blog; to educate people and promote a more tolerant atmosphere.

In my consideration, the burgeoning acceptance of Goths also signifies how Gothic values, especially those from the pre-subculture, literary/art movement meaning of the word - the Gothic in terms of the sublime, the dark, the morbid, etc. are being embraced by more people. I think we've had a positive affect in getting people to appreciate the dark! It is becoming mainstream, it is being embraced by the establishment - something of a double-edged sword! What I  really don't like is when the Gothic becomes another trend to latch onto in the eyes of the corporate, consumerist machine - when it becomes just another "fashion" detached from its symbolism, from its roots, from the subculture that spawned it, and its longer past (which the British Library and the BBC have done a valiant and educational effort to avoid in a recent exhibition and documentary - the documentary I will review soon, and the exhibition as soon as I go to England and visit it!).

Let it be clear that I am not advocating our changing to become more acceptable; we are doing nothing wrong, nothing that needs to change - it is those that come at us with hatred, with insults, with judgements and debasement. We do not need to become acceptable; the world needs to become accepting, and at least in my experience over the last 10+ years I've been Goth, the world slowly is, and my thanks goes towards groups like the ::Sophie Lancaster Foundation:: for helping to make it so.  

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Remembering Summer In Autumn

Outside a gale is howling and leaden clouds scud across a pale, wan and grey sky. Everything is damp; there's not enough warmth between the rain showers for anything to dry. Autumn is here, rapidly turning into winter. Snow was reported on the mountains to the south, and it has been too hazy for me to see whether or not there is snow on the mountains to the north. Summer seems like it was a century ago. Currently I am wearing a scarf indoors and I am getting good use out of my trench-coat and wellies when outdoors, but right now, I'm not even thinking about being outdoors; I am indoors in the warm and more importantly to me, the dry. I love the colours of autumn- leaves of copper, gold, bronze and burgundy, skies of silver, steel and lead, an ocean like mercury - but I am not at all fond of the weather, as it seems to mostly be driven rain that comes when the wind sweeps off the ocean and across the foothills and drags the rain anywhere from diagonal to almost sideways. 

Relaxing in the garden after some summer rain.
Photograph by Raven of Chance Photography

As such, I cast my mind back to summer, when it was warmer (sometimes too warm!) and I could spend time outdoors without the wind relentlessly trying to drive water into the space between my coat and my neck (hence scarves, scarves all the time!) and I even sometimes went around bare legged. Back in July I showcased ::this:: make-up, and here is the outfit that went with it, summoned out of the depths of the external hard-drive and finally on my laptop and now my blog. 

I look grumpy when made to pose for photos!
Photograph by Raven of Chance Photography

This is probably my favourite dress - it is the 'Adare' dress by Hell Bunny, a black and white print of haunted houses, skulls, graves and ravens. Adare is a village in Ireland - near it stands one of the Desmond castles, and in it stands the Gothic Revival building of reportedly haunted Adare Manor, but the print has no castle, and the house featured looks nothing like Adare Manor, so I am not sure why it is named such. Some of the faces on the dress appear to be zombified version of Edgar Allan Poe. I love the feathers, as I am a fan of bird motifs in general. In this print they are white on black, but the dress comes in a red-on-black colour-way, and the feathers looked bloodied in that version.

Cropped by me(hence grainy)
Photo by Raven of Chance Photography

It might be raining outside, but summer can live on. Autumn will come and go then Winter, but after the Winter Solstice, the days will grow longer and summer will, eventually, return.

Many thanks to Raven, who always makes me look lovelier than I am!