Category Archives: Gothic
Wow! This blog Lady Lazarus: dying is an art received exactly 47,512 visits in 2012. That’s pretty impressive for a personal blog fuelled by the writing powers of just one individual. Many thanks to those amongst you who “follow” me and add your comments to my posts. It takes at least two to make a conversation, so keep those comments coming in 2013. This blog is a pure labour of love, and I plan to keep it that way. The drive that keeps me researching and writing about all things dark and macabre is a genuine, unslakable curiosity. I’m just a big nerd that way.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 47,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 11 Film Festivals
Viva la Google. Discovered this little gem via the search engine. No author’s name is attached to it, but here is the originating web site. Silly fun, so I thought I’d share it with you. Assuming the world doesn’t come to an abrupt end on December 21st as per the Mayan predictions, have a good holiday everyone! — Lady Lazarus.
With somber and tormented apologies to Clement C. Moore:
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through our house
was blasting the “St. Vitus Dance” by Bauhaus;
Torn fishnets were draped on my forearms with care,
And two cans of Aquanet applied to my hair;
My thoughts were of graveyards, and horror and dread,
Black visions of pain and despair in my head;
And Bianca, whose face was as pale as the moon,
Had thrown up her arm for this evening’s swoon,
When out by the gravestones there came such a clatter,
I sprang from the coffin to find out the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a ghost,
Expecting to find a dark devilish host.
The moon on the breast of the uncaring snow
Threw ominous shadows on objects below,
When, before my tormented eyes did traverse,
But a gorgeous black Crane & Breed carved-panel hearse,
With a gaunt, shrouded driver, who filled me with fear,
And eight skeletal creatures that might have been deer.
More rapid than vultures his coursers they came,
And his deep Andrew Eldritch voice called them by name;
Now, Murphy! Now, Morgoth! Now, Torment and Woe!
On, Dreadful! On, Lovecraft! Mephisto and Poe!
To the top of the gravestones where fog wisps its breath!
With a weight on my soul I consign you to death!
As dead leaves that before hellish hurricanes fly,
When they flutter like giant bats’ wings to the sky,
So up to the crypt-top the coursers they leapt,
While dearest Bianca, like death, still but slept.
And then, to my horror, I heard on the roof
The clicking and scratching of each bone-white hoof.
As I drew in my arm, and was whirling around,
Down the ebony chimney he came without sound.
He was clad all in black, and he looked oh-so-goth,
A billowy ensemble of crushed velvet cloth;
His boots were knee-high, quite buckled and zipped,
And the Spandex and fishnets ’round his legs were ripped.
His eyes glowed with bluish fire, deathly and cold,
A black eye-liner’d face neither youthful nor old.
A broad lipless mouth drawn with torment and hurt,
And his sorrowful face was as white as my shirt.
A smoldering cigarette tight in his grasp,
Its smoke curling eerily ’round his cloak clasp;
His gaunt frame was topped with long ebon hair,
And a sharp scent of brimstone and cloves choked the air.
His arms were outspread in the shape of a cross,
And I quailed when I saw him, feeling sorrow and loss;
He narrowed his eyes with a twist of his head,
And I felt the full weight of his angst and dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his task,
Left some Dead Can Dance CD’s; before I could ask,
A single tear fell across his aquiline nose,
And then, like an angel, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his hearse, to his team he then hissed,
And away they all drifted like early dawn’s mist.
But I heard him intone, ere he vanished from sight,
“Gothic Christmas to all, and to all a good fright!”
Oh, baby, look at you
Don’t you look like Siouxsie Sioux
How long’d it take to get that way
What a terrible waste of energy
You wear black clothes say you’re poetic
The sad truth is you’re just pathetic
[...] Don’t try to tell me that you’re an intellectual
Cause you’re just another boring bisexual
[...] 80 pounds of make up on your art school skin
80 points of I.Q. located within
–Selected lyrics from the song “Instant Club Hit (You’ll Dance to Anything)” (1987) by the American satirical punk rock band, the Dead Milkmen.
Funny guys, those Dead Milkmen. That song made me laugh back in the day, even as it did thoroughly insult my tribe. Mind you, Siouxsie Sioux became a Goth fashion icon with an indisputable legacy of music and style…the Dead Milkmen, not so much. At the end of the day, the art school kids came out on top.
It’s early September so — of course — I’m already thinking about Halloween and my possible costume options. That’s just how I roll, gentle readers. As you’ve no doubt already guessed, I’m considering a transformation into Siouxsie — by which I mean ‘Classic Goth’ Siouxsie, back in her early days with The Banshees. So, what does an outfit like that entail?
Without a doubt, one of the essential elements to the successful deployment of the ‘Siouxsie-look’ is heavy, dramatic make-up. Her signature style, which paired a pale complexion with dark, exaggerated eyes, derived from a few different sources: the actresses of the silent film era — most notably, the Cleopatra as portrayed by exotic screen siren Theda Bara — and the mask-like appearance of Japanese kabuki theatre. To begin, whitened your skin tone with a powder one or two shades lighter than your usual. Once you’ve attained that perfectly pallid, cadaver-like complexion, you can reach for your black kohl eye pencil. Now the fun really starts. OK…I’ve decided not to bore you with detailed, step-by-step instructions on makeup application, as there’s many video tutorials out there showing precisely how to achieve this ‘Siouxsie-look’ with cosmetics. Here’s one if you’re interested. Suffice to say, the process involves a shitload of eyeliner and eyeshadow, dark-red lipstick and some precision work with lip liner. If you closely resemble Cleopatra when all this is done, you’re on the right track.
Ok, the hair. A big bird’s nest of black, backcombed hair. I’m not entirely confident that I’ll be able to achieve this hairstyle with my naturally curly hair, but I’ll give it a try. Perhaps with enough backcombing and hard-as-shellac hairspray, this’ll work. Either that, or I’ll borrow a black wig.
The clothes should be — what else? — black. The Classic Goth look borrowed heavily from late-1970′s British Punk, so lots of fishnet, combat boots, studded wristbands and collars, leather, PVC and/or vinyl. The London-based punk fashion shop SEX, co-owned by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, was fundamental to the development of the Classic Goth look. According to Wikipedia, SEX sold fetish and bondage wear supplied by existing specialist labels such as Atomage, She-And-Me and London Leatherman, as well as designs by McLaren and Westwood. Siouxsie Sioux, incidentally, was a shop regular.
Here’s a trick I learned the other day: take an old pair of fishnet pantyhose and cut off both feet. Then, cut out the crotch and pull over your head. Place arms in the (former) stocking legs and — viola! — instant fishnet shirt.
So, that’s it. I’m either going to dress-up as Siouxsie for Halloween, or a zombie. Or….Zombie Siouxsie.
At last, I’ve completed my second stop-motion animated short film. Domestikia uses paper cutouts and articulated paper puppets in a stop-motion animation to explore the strange, dreamlike and uncanny realm of the Domestic Gothic. With a healthy dose of black humour, it tackles the anxieties and challenges experienced by parents of young children. The ‘Domestic Gothic’ as a motif developed through the writing of 19th-century women Gothic novelists, such as the Brontë Sisters, and dealt specifically with the horror of confinement felt by women who were ‘imprisoned’ within the home and unable to move freely in Victorian society. With contemporary women still predominantly acting as primary caregivers to their children — and thus financially penalized by either remaining at home or opting for employment that allows for ‘family friendly’ work hours — this sense of confinement is still present. The realm of the domestic has become infiltrated by strange creatures — a giant butterfly, an octopus, and bird-headed children — whose presence suggest a level of discomfort within the home. These creatures are the physical manifestation of Freud’s das Unheimlich (translates to English as ‘the uncanny’), a term which literally means ‘unhomely.’
All images and animation were done by me, in my basement.
Ghost stories. Every culture around the world has them and, whether they arise from ancient folklore, the Gothic novelists, or the humble campfire, they continue to both frighten and fascinate. What is it about the ghost story that has held our collective fascination from time immemorial? I have a personal theory that, beyond their chilling narratives, there’s a psychological comfort to be derived from the ghost story. The very idea of a ‘ghost’ fundamentally supports the belief in an afterlife and that something exists beyond the grave. In spite of geographic, political, or cultural differences, an intrinsic fear of death is the one thing we all have in common.
So, if a good ghost story gives you a cold sort of comfort, then you might consider packing your bags for a trip to Mexico. Located on Teshuilo Lake in Mexico’s ancient Xochimilco district, the remote island dubbed La Isla De La Muñecas (or, ‘the Island of the Dolls’) has become a curious tourist destination for fans of the macabre. Festooned about this quiet and uninhabited island are thousands of dolls, supposedly left by the island’s former occupant to weather and decay. A tale of tragedy accompanies these dolls, offering a possible explanation as to their placement here:
In the late 1950s, Don Julian Santana Barrera came to inhabit the nameless island on Teshuilo Lake, which [was] then a lonely, overgrown spot and seemingly perfect for his hermit-like requirements.
But, unbeknownst to Julian, the quiet island has a dark history. Local legend maintains that in the 1920s three young girls were playing on the island, only for one of them to drown, falling into the canal’s murky waters close to a small jetty. The nearby residents claimed that the dead girl’s spirit refused to pass on and remained tethered to the island. The area soon gained a degree of infamy and few dared to venture near the supposedly haunted land, especially at night.
Now, with Julian’s arrival, the girl’s spirit once again had someone to talk to. She told him of the manner of her death and asked him to find dolls for her to play with; adding that they would also help to ward off the ancient and evil spirits that still wandered the prehistoric wetlands. Evidently, Julian listened to the girl’s appeal, and began to search the area, scouring the rubbish dumps and plucking any discarded dolls that floated on the gently lapping waters of the cloudy canals.
At first Julian was thought to be something of an oddity; a crackpot who would gather unwanted dolls because he thought they were actual children that he could nurse back to life, but eventually people realized that he was simply a harmless old man with a rather peculiar past-time. In time, Julian accrued so many dolls that the island came to be called La Isla de las Muñecas (The Island of Dolls) but according to Julian, no amount of plastic companions seemed to satisfy the spirit’s thirst, and soon thousands of the toys festooned the island’s every square foot. Julian even constructed a modest hut for the purpose of housing a shrine dedicated to the dead girl’s spirit and the most special dolls he was given.
On April 21st 2001, Julian and his nephew, Anastasio were fishing on the island. Julian told his nephew that strange voices had been calling out to him from the waters of the canals, beckoning him to enter the water and join them. He explained that he had often heard weird voices, but had always been able to resist their calls. The two men carried on fishing together until Anastasio left to undertake some errands. When he returned he discovered his uncle floating face down in the canal near the small pier – at the same place that the girl had lost her life in the 1920s.
– Source: ‘The Mexican Island Haunted by Evil Dolls‘, on the Environmental Graffiti blog.
Of course, the cynic in me says that the story of Julian Barrera and the drowned girl are completely apocryphal, and some enterprising locals collected discarded plastic dolls and decorated the island, inventing this ghost story in the hopes of attracting tourist dollars to an off-the-beaten-path region of Mexico. Whatever the truth behind the dolls, it’s still an impressive and effectively eerie sight to behold. Click on the link above to view more creepy photos of the ‘haunted’ Island of the Dolls.
1. The stylish Daughters of Darkness (1971) from Belgian director Harry Kümel continues to be one of my favourite indulgences when it comes to eurotrash vampire films. I’ve already dedicated an entire blog post on Kümel’s film, but a recently discovered quote from “dissident feminist” Camille Paglia has reminded me of my great admiration for this lesbian-vampire classic:
“A classy genre of vampire film follows a style I call psychological high Gothic. [...] A good example is Daughters of Darkness, starring Delphine Seyrig as an elegant lesbian vampire. High gothic is abstract and ceremonious. Evil has become world-weary, hierarchical glamour. There is no bestiality. The theme is eroticized western power, the burden of history.”
– Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. Yale University Press, 1990, p. 268.
2. Yet another Belgian vampire film, although the ‘found-footage’ hand-held camera-style of Vincent Lannoo’s Vampires (2011) could scarcely be more of a departure from Kümel’s meticulously crafted film. Touted in the media as “Spinal Tap meets the Munsters”, Lannoo’s mockumentary delves into the culture of contemporary Belgian vampires, all with a wonderfully deadpan, blacker-than-night sense of humour. After several unsuccessful attempts to document the vampire community — as the film crews kept, um, getting eaten — the crew that purportedly filmed Vampires manage to locate an amenable vampire family that allow them to document their daily routines. Even though the found-footage schtick has grown very, very tired in the horror genre, I found myself enjoying the detailed accounts of vampire customs and culture.
3. The low-budget indie film Habit (1999) was written, produced, directed, and edited by genre fave Larry Fessenden. This is a grungy and unglamorous revisionist-vampire film that uses vampirism as a metaphor for addiction. Fessenden plays Sam, a world-weary bartender who struggles with alcoholism and the recent death of his estranged father. When Sam meets the mysterious Anna at a friend’s party, things eventually go from bad to worse. While this film offers little in terms of fanged neck-biting, it has an effectively moody atmosphere and some fairly erotic sex scenes.
4. Cronos (1993), written & directed by Guillermo del Toro, was the cinematic debut of the Mexican filmmaker better known for his later film Pan’s Labyrinth. A fairly unique treatment of the vampire mythology in which an ancient and mysterious mechanical device is used to transmit the virus of vampirism. An old antique dealer unwittingly discovers the scarab-shaped device in his shop and becomes infected. Fans of del Toro’s work will recognize his characteristic black humour and fondness for grotesquery.
5. Another clever twist on the vampire legend is Chan-wook Park’s Thirst (2009). Sang-hyun is a devout Catholic priest who, for all intents and purposes, opts to martyr himself by subjecting his body to some radical medical experiments. When these medical experiments result in vampirism, the priest wrestles not only with a heightened desire for carnality, but also a thirst for human blood.
Back in August of 2011, I wrote a blog entry about my fascination with the Goth subculture, an entry appropriately entitled Goth like me; or, why does little Jenny mope in her bedroom all day, wearing black and writing bad poetry? Indeed, for several years I have held an interest in Goth-inspired art, music and fashion, even before I was aware of that particular label. As my earlier post explained, there are several different fashion styles that fall under the broad category ‘Goth’, all with their own distinct rules and conventions. One of the most interesting and — for some Westerners — difficult to understand modes of Goth dress is the Japanese Lolita.
One of the most common misunderstandings of the Lolita subculture is the belief that the associated costuming somehow relates to either sex and/or cosplay. Neither, however, are true. The Japanese use of the English name “Lolita” is likely a case of wasei-eigo, or Japanese-derived English, and does not refer to the novel by Vladimir Nabokov nor its titular 12-year-old “nymphette” heroine. The Lolita mode of dress places a strong emphasis on Victorian-era elegance and modesty, and is not intended to be ‘sexy’. Nor is Lolita garb derived from anime or manga characters, like the cat-ears and spiky blue-hair of cosplay costumes.
Lolita fashion grew out of the 1980s-90s Japanese music scene, inspired by flamboyantly-dressed pop music icons such as Princess Princess and the cross-dressing Malice Mizer. Much like Goth dress in general, the Lolita also has several different fashion incarnations:
The Gothic Lolita
Gothic Lolita (or ‘gothloli’) fashion originated in the late 1990s in Harajuku (region in Tokyo). This style is characterized by the wearing of black and white clothing, though black + another colour (red, purple) is not uncommon. Clothing generally includes ruffled blouses with bows and puffed sleeves, knee-length skirts (often worn with crinolines or petticoats for that classic bell-shaped silhouette), stockings or knee-high socks, and girlish mary-jane shoes or Victorian-style boots. Hats, ornate headbands, gloves and parasols are common accessories. The Westernized versions of the Gothic Lolita tend to downplay the ultra-feminine ribbons, ruffles and bows of the Japanese look, while still adhering to the Victorian doll-like Lolita aesthetic.
The Sweet Lolita
Similar in dress to the gothloli, this style adopts saccharine-sweet, lighter colours — often pink or baby-blue — and childlike motifs like Alice in Wonderland, hearts, strawberries, cupcakes and teddy bears. I firmly believe that there are some modes of dress that can only be successfully worn by 16-year-old Japanese girls. This is one of those. The Sweet Lolita attempts to emulate the porcelain skin and blonde ringlets of a European, Victorian-era doll.
The Pirate Lolita
Not a particularly common Lolita style, but certainly a fun and flamboyant one. The fashion label Alice & the Pirates (a side-project of Baby, the Stars Shine Bright) offers all an aspiring pirate needs to look to part. Ahoy, maties!
The Guro Lolita
This style is one of the most curious of the Lolita fashions. The Guro Lolita dresses as a “broken doll”, with band-aids, eye-patches, and bloodied gauze bandages. Often, they wear white — a colour that provides the perfect canvas on which to splatter pretend blood and gore. It is common for the gurololi to carry around an equally bandaged & bloodied doll or teddy-bear.
Shiro & Kuro Lolita
Shiro Lolita, or ‘White Lolita,’ is a Lolita outfit made entirely of white/cream/off-white co-ordinates, while its counterpart Kuro Lolita, or ‘Black Lolita,’ is an outfit made-up of entirely black co-ordinates. Shiro and Kuro Lolita can be taken from any style of Lolita, whether it be Gothic, Sweet, or Classic. If the co-ordination is completely white, then it is accepted as Shiro Lolita, while if it is entirely black it is accepted as Kuro.
The Wa Lolita combines traditional Japanese clothing — namely the kimono — with the Lolita style. The kimono-style garment is modified to accommodate the fullness of a petticoat and Japanese wooden sandals (called okobo) sometimes replace the typical Lolita boots or platform mary-janes. Another East-meets-West Lolita mashup is the Qi Lolita. This style uses Chinese clothing and accessories in place of Japanese, and usually this includes qipao dresses modified to accommodate a petticoat.
Even though I’m going to end my blog post here, by no means should you consider this list an exhaustive account of all of the Lolita styles. For the complete list, visit this Lolita Style Handbook.
The incubus is a demon in male form — the female equivalent is called a succubus – who, according to different mythologies and legends throughout the world, lies upon women whilst they sleep in order to have sexual intercourse with them. In the Middle Ages, belief in demons who sexually preyed on humans assuaged a sleeping person’s shame and guilt over nocturnal emissions and other physical evidence of erotic dreams. Primarily, however, the incubus legend functioned as a convenient means to conceal incest and other types of sexual assault upon girls and women who had no unchaperoned access to men outside the home, but had nonetheless become inexplicably pregnant.
In contrast to the sleeping rape victims of medieval yore, the women that populate the photographic work of contemporary visual artist Michael Hutter are both wide awake and engaged in consensual coupling with their respective incubi. In the sepia-coloured photo-collage entitled Inkubus, a nude woman sporting a 1920′s flapper-style bob receives an amorous lick from the tiny demon lover perched on her shoulder. In The Alien Nurse, the erotic-grotesque combines with Victorian fetishism as a blindfolded “wet-nurse” offers up her breast to a curious intestinal/tentacled alien blob. In subsequent photo-collages, the wet-nurse discovers new and even more intimate uses for the alien tentacle, recalling shokushu goukan or ‘tentacle erotica’ of contemporary Japanese hentai.
The work of German artist Michael Hutter ranges from ink drawings on paper reminiscent of the Victorian kinkiness of Aubrey Beardsley’s Lysistrata, to the retro-inspired photo-collages you see here. Visit his online gallery to see for yourself, though perhaps not whilst at the office.