Monday, 29 December 2014

Gothic Art in Spotlight: art and design out of old naval mines

A bit before the Holidays I took a day trip to Tallinn, Estonia. There I visited art exhibitions by KUMU, the art museum of Estonia. Most of the exhibitions are of coarse in the building on KUMU but there was also a small exhibition presenting works of sculptor Mati Karmin at the old terminal of the Tallinn Airport. According to the webpage of KUMU, the exhibition is open till 5th of May 2015. So, if you happen to visit Tallinn before that, you have an excellent opportunity to see these works made out of old naval mines yourself! The place is right next to the Airport and less than a 20 minute bus trip from the center of Tallinn.

The baby carriage and an armchair
 I must admit I was a bit puzzled by the fact, that instead of being in the exhibition area, these two were just parked in a corridor. Maybe they were renovating the floor in the exhibition room, I don't know.
Close-up, look at the little toys for toddlers!
What is this about then? The project is about making objects of art and design out of old army equipment. The artist who started the whole project, Karmin, is a very notorious and distinguished Estonian artist, who has made many monumental sculptures since the eighties and the latest was finished 2012. He has had numerous solo exhibitions in Estonia, Hungary and Finland.

The armchair from the front.
I saw a fireplace, three chairs and the baby carriage. In their webpage you can see they make all kinds of other things too, for example a toilet, a grill oven, a coffee table, and a bathtub!

A fireplace, I presume.
I think these design objects are marvelous, they are fun but also constantly remind what the used material was actually for; destroying submarines and other vessels during war.

20's accessories in KUMU
This no longer is related to naval mines but I also saw an exhibition in KUMU of 20's fashion and art déco, I am sure some of you love vintage styles and might be interested of this exhibition. It is open till 18th of January.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

DIY Bookish Holiday Decorations

I saw a nice DIY idea for Christmas ornaments in a magazine and decided to try it. The ornaments are instantly more goth-y if one uses black ornaments, like I did, to begin with and chooses the right text.

I did not have the heart to start to shred a novella of Edgar Allan Poe or another dear horror story and I would not advise people to destroy their favorite books. Instead it is wiser to buy a pocket book from a flea market. Or use some disgusting novel one has received as a present. An instruction manual of some apparatus can be a fun choice too.

I bought this book and I chose it for two reasons. It costed 1 euro and even though it is not a goth-y novel, there are delicious sentences like "I think she is a Russian prostitute" and "He is a genuine psycho", which can be hilarious if other people start to examine my ornaments too closely.

What you need:
- old Christmas ornaments, preferably a dark color, no patterns or figures
- glue
- a book you are willing to rip into parts, or any printed text
- black glitter glue
- clear varnish

First clip or rip parts of a page. You do not have to try to get whole sentences or anything but it is nice is one can read a few words here and there.

Glue them on the ornaments in a formation that pleases your eye. Add black glitter glue, especially if you have goofed some part of the previous phase, for example the paper is wrinkled or the glue has smudged the edges. Black glitter is also added to places that you feel it fits.

If you like, in the end you can gently coat the ornaments with clear varnish. It might keep the paper on the ornaments better but the ink can start to run if you are not careful. Choosing the right kind of varnish is important.

I of coarse could not follow my own instructions because I forgot to make sure I actually had glue that had not mysteriously dried up. I used the varnish from a craft store as a substitute and it work quite well. Of coarse the coating became a bit "rough" but it does not bother me much.

When you have finished an ornament it is good to hang it somewhere so that the surface can dry up. I used one of those thingies that are usually used to dry laundry.

Happy Holidays to you all!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Creepy Reads Review: John Polidori's Vampyre - The first vampire novel.

A tale of an aristocrat vampire 70 years before Bram Stoker's Dracula!

The topic of this post is a novella (or a short story) written by John Polidori, a man who attended the competition of horror writing among Lord Byron and Mary Godwin. She would later become famous as Mary Shelley, the writer of Frankenstein.

The edition of Vampyre* I own has a really good introduction by Christopher Frayling. He states that this story by Polidori was actually first told by Lord Byron in the competition. Byron and Polidori had a falling-out that summer of the competition and Polidori rewrote the story and published it three years later. The situation in 1819, the year of the publishing, was rather heated, there was an introduction attached that linked the vampire of the novella and the extravagant persona of lord Byron. It was also clear that the selling of the novella was influenced by gossips of the day. Here is the novella with those provoking attachments for free, by Project Gutenberg, if you are interested!

Side note: I actually read years ago another interesting short story, that fictionalized Byron and made him a vampire and John Polidori was his victim. It was an intriguing scenario but for the death of me I can't remember where I saw it, who had written it and what was the name!

I really like the Finnish edition of Vampyre by publishing house Faros, the cover is really elegant and gloomy. Here is a photo of the one I own, as you can see it is a bit worn out.

After that beauty of the cover, let's move on to the content of Polidori's novella. I think it is an exceptionally good example of the alive and kicking Romanticism among the era of science and advancement. The narration is almost scientific at points, reporting the story, but the actual events are spooky and supernatural, like in a typical Gothic or Romantic novel. (In this case I am referring to Gothic as a literature genre not a modern subculture.)

I love how the narrator is slightly ironic towards the hero of the story, a young gentleman called Aubrey. The narrator points out that poor Aubrey is a bit silly, believing into all kinds of superstition. Still, Aubrey is a decent bloke, almost too good to be true. He is appalled by vice and he is a real gentleman when it comes to the opposite sex and romantic feelings.

The story is mostly from Aubrey's point of view. That means the narrator concentrates on things Aubrey sees and thinks, instead of elaborating the inner worlds of other characters. Only in the end the thoughts of Lord Ruthven, a man Aubrey believes is a vampire, are revealed. It is quite entertaining, although I must admit all characters are rather plain archetypes. That is understandable, this being the first vampire novel(la).

J. W. Polidori. Source

I would say this horror story is also a tragedy (again as a genre), so the expectations of the reader are going to be rather grim, if they start to read the novella as a tragedy. I hope I am not spoiling too much but a tragedy usually ends in tears, the hero is destroyed by fate, everybody suffers and so on. People tend to love a good tragedy, that's why when you are asked to name the first play by Shakespeare that comes to mind, you usually say Macbeth or Hamlet. Polidori's Vampyre too is going to be a sinister ride for the reader, so I am sure many goths of today will like it!

The language is old, being from the 1819 but the novella is still rather fast to read. I do recommend it.

Thanks for reading and next time I shall post a bit before 24th, and tell a nice little way to DIY old Christmas decorations.

* The whole name of the published book was The Vampyre; A Tale but I'll refer to it as Vampyre.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Creepy Reads Review: The homecoming by Ray Bradbury, illustrated by Dave McKean

In November's Creepy Reads Review I am going to introduce a short story by Ray Bradbury (1920-2012). Bradbury's best known work is Fahrenheit 451, a novel that describes a dystopian society, in which books are considered dangerous and are therefore outlawed. I shall not talk about it any longer but it is a classic when it comes to novels describing fictive dark futures. The short story of Bradbury I am going to write about is The homecoming, which was first published 1946, though I have a copy published in 2006. The homecoming is a tale for both adults and children thanks to its universal themes and almost poetry-like language and of coarse pictures; this new edition I have is illustrated by Dave McKean, a well known artist.

You are probably familiar with the illustrator's other works especially the ones in which Neil Gaiman has also been participating. Dave McKean has for example made the cover for Neil Gaiman's Coraline, and McKean has directed MirrorMask (screenplay by Gaiman) and he has made a lot of art (covers, illustrations and so on) for Gaiman's Sandman graphic novels. He was also a concept artist in two Harry Potter movies.

The main character of The homecoming is a 10-year-old Timothy, who is the only human member of a family of ghouls. It is All Hallows' Eve and all the creepy and odd family members are coming to celebrate together at the home of Timothy's parents. The story is about a heartbreaking situation of a little boy, longing to belong but realizing his own difference. I really like this set-up, because usually goth-y stories are about the spooky one (a teenage werewolf or a vampire), who is different in the creepy and alluring way the readers would like to be themselves.

Many goths and other darkly inclined people like mythical horror creatures and would like them to be true. In The homecoming those creatures are true but the poor protagonist still can't be completely included into the creatures' dark world or to really take part in all the activities of the huge party on All Hallows' Eve. He is not even sure if he really wants to be exactly like others. Though Timothy loves his family, his little pounding heart allows him to see the sun, which he loves too.

This short story reminds us that you can't have everything you want and more importantly, all things you want are not good for you.

Another big theme beside the theme of "not belonging" is death. The story is also about Timothy realizing his own mortality in a family of ghouls. His blood circulation is the sign of life and also of the inevitable death. By accepting his fundamental difference, Timothy can come in terms with his own mortality and even more importantly, by accepting his own mortality, which makes him different, he can also belong. With the mortality Timothy also finds that part of himself that is same with the other family members and allows him to participate to ghoulish life, even if just for a fleeting moment.

Thanks for reading my review, I hope some of you get inspired and if you see The homecoming somewhere, you'll grab it and read it!

Monday, 24 November 2014

100th post: DIY ideas for a werewolf party

This is my 100th post and I am quite excited about it! Though I am more excited about that I have such nice people reading my posts and commenting them. ^___^

"Down the corridor, werewolves!"

This post is not only about being the hundredth post, I am going to give some "DIY" tips for a party themed as "Lycanthropy" or "Werewolves". Last week I had my birthday party with that theme for my university student friends. Because I temporarily live 200 kilometers away from those friends, I could not have the party in my home but luckily a friend let me have the party at her place.

Since I had to travel to my university city in the morning, collect the key to the apartment from the friend (she was at work till 18 o'clock), buy the ingredients for food and punch and then go to the apartment and work in a strange kitchen, I would not want to do anything too difficult that might flop, nor could I spend hours and hours to make really nice and theme related snacks, so here is what I made fast and easy:

A classic Halloween snack is fitting for hungry werewolves, don't you think? I obeyed this recipe. Though, I did not obey it while actually making the fingers and accidentally I cooked for too long at least half the sausages and they just looked like they exploded. I still managed to make a decent amount of fingers and people thought they were funny yet yucky.

Moon cookies
Now, they are just plain oat biscuits bought from the store, and I think they are mimicking full moon rather poorly. If I have a party with this theme again, I shall make better moon biscuits.

Blood red punch
I decided to make a variation of a recipe for instant sangria. This meant vodka, red wine, coca-cola, and sprite. I can't tell the exact amounts I used because I just added them until it tasted and looked good. I think I added about 3/5 of wine, then 1/5 of each lemonade and then a splash of vodka. I had asked my friend to make some ice hearts for the punch with my heart shaped mold, since certainly werewolves like some human hearts! Unfortunately the weren't that visible in dark fluid but that's not such a big deal.

Chips and gore dip
Also known as boring and plain chips and salsa dip. :D

A hungry werewolf gnawing a finger

Then we are off to the more or less DIY ideas. I do realize some of these are not really DIY crafty stuff but they are ideas others can be inspired by, so what the heck!

"Looking for lycanthropes? One floor up!"
If I could have had the opportunity to drag a couple of video projectors to the place, I would have used them as lighting; I would have put old black and white Wolf Man movies on loop, muted, and projected on walls. Alas, I had no video projectors so the movies were on television as the playlist was playing as a weird soundtrack both to the party and to the movies.

Guiding notes are handy, especially if all guests have not been in the place party is held and the place is situated in a block of flats or some other maze.

It is preferable, that the notes are according to the theme of the party, so I had a couple of notes in the outdoors of the building. There were two doors, one on floor zero and the other on floor one, so the picture above was on the other door and the picture you can see in the beginning of this post was on the other door. They stated to the guests, which way to go.

This photo on the left of a note is from the door of my friend's apartment, because not all guests knew this was not actually my apartment and therefore my name would not be on the door. I thought this would make things less confusing. Do click photos for larger view, the one on the left is a quote from the old The Wolf Man movie. I have also smeared some fake blood on the note to give a little color. I got to admit, I like the stuff! I've had that particular bottle of fake blood for four years now and half of the content is still there! It is also easy to wash off skin and clothes.

Dressing according to the theme was encouraged among the guests and I am happy to say many were inspired. We had awesome werewolves, a moonbeam and even Sam and Dean Winchester of Supernatural, though luckily they had their day off.

Do you guys watch Supernatural?

Moonbeam and Wolf
Here is the moonbeam, with her slightly green moon. There is also a little werewolf, excited of the friend from the skies. These awesome two ladies with two other equally awesome ladies, who just are not in the picture, had given me as a present a bottle of red wine with a picture of a sheep on the label and a pack of bacon, because a wolf needs her vitamins!

The tails
For my own outfit, I had bought a fur collar made of two tails from an internet auction. I separated the tails and used one myself. I wondered for a while, if I should make ears out of old leather mittens, but decided they would probably not match with my tail.

I was slightly amused that in the advertise of the fur collar it stated that the product is "probably genuine mink". Really? With that long hair? Had this person ever seen a mink or a coat made of them? It doesn't take long to google "mink"... Well, it doesn't really matter, because I found it and thought it would fit my party theme. It was also lucky that the seller did not want ridiculous amounts of money of this "mink" fur.

I realized it would be awkward, if I would put wolf make-up on my hands and then fuss with the foods. My costume was not that special, I did not manage to make a good wolf make-up to my, so I just made my self look creepy. :D You can see it in the end of this post. I had the old skull of a brown hare stitched to a flower as a hair piece.

To entertain my guests, I held a quiz concerning werewolves. A couple of questions were for example "from what year is the first The Wolf Man movie?" and "In what werewolf movies did Bela Lugosi have a role?" I asked people to round up teams of three or four people, because there would be prizes.

The winning team got black candles and little jars filled with all the ingredients one needs to turn oneself into a wolf! Wolf's blood and magical herbs, that is. Or, at least something that will look cool around their neck, even if they do not start to sprout fur and fangs.

I bought some twine and the little plastic bottles from a local arts & crafts store Sinelli, unfortunately they did not have miniature jars of glass with real cork but these did just fine.

I then filled two with fake blood from a costume shop and then put some glue on the neck of the bottle before putting the cork on, to make sure the little bottles are well closed. It would be awkward, if a bottle started to ooze on an innocent guest and a winner of the quiz, even though that fake blood fades away pretty well from the clothes in the washing machine.

Then I gathered some natural elements (also known as twigs, blueberry shrubs and lichen) from the woods nearby, dried them and filled the other two bottles. I also put in some black pepper.

Final photos are of my outfit, I am oddly twisted so that my tail is seen and there is a good reason why I look a bit distressed; there is a close relative hanging on the wall!

That's about it! Those were my DIY ideas for partying like a werewolf. I had a really lovely birthday party, my friends were awesome and considerate, participating into the theme and giving me amazing and funny birthday gifts.

Thanks for reading and my next post is going to be about a short story by Ray Bradbury!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

CorpGoth Status Report: My commute

First I was not going to participate, because I did not remember to take photos on my route and I only go to the university once a week nowadays. This also is my 99th post and I had already scheduled one and made preparations for my 100th post but now I'll just reschedule the 99th to be 101st!

To the actual report: As I explained, I only go to the university once a week and not even every week, because I am doing my master's thesis. So I live 200 kilometers away due to several reasons and that means once a week I travel two hours in the morning by train and two hours back in the evening or the next morning. My seminar meetings are usually on Thursdays and on Thursdays there are often some student parties. :3 So, I'll stay over at friend's and we go to the party together.

This travelling for two hours is actually really great, because while sitting in a train I get done enormous amounts of reading of theory books. Depending of the day, how much I make notes and how interesting the writing is, I read 50-100 pages on one trip. Two hours in the morning is my "high-performance time" which is the time I am most active, I think better and get things done.

You can probably guess my subject from the photos. My thesis is going to be about grotesque and I am really excited about it!

When I sit and read, I rarely look out of the window. One day I finished my book early and spent the last hour listening music and looking at the view. I was slightly disturbed by the fact that I did not recognize most areas the train went by. Don't know if it is a good thing or not.

Thanks for reading my rather small report of the local commute and do click the Status Report Icon to go and read other participants' posts too!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Gothic Art in Spotlight: Kim Simonsson's creepy sculptures

In November's Gothic Art in Spotlight I am going to write about Kim Simonsson's creepy yet witty sculptures. I first saw some of them in an exhibition in Helsinki 2013 and again today in an exhibition in Lahti, which is another Finnish city. That exhibition is open till 18th of January 2015 and Lahti is situated an hour drive or a train journey away from Helsinki. If somebody is visiting Helsinki in near future, it would be easy to go and check the exhibition in Lahti too.

"Lisa and Louise" just like in The Shining!

Simonsson is a distinguished artist, he was nominated as the Young Artist of the Year 2004. He has had several exhibitions, for example in the world contemporary ceramics exhibition, "Trans Ceramic Art" in Korea 2005 and a review of his art has been published in the webpage of New York Times.

How to describe the works of Simonsson? Cuteness of the statues is combined with subtle or sudden cruelty. The dark eyes of the statues can start to look more and more maleficent the longer one stares them. There are also macabre statues positioned next to the cute and innocent, like the black pile of dead deer titled "Bad Shepherd". Bad Shepherd was not in the exhibition in Lahti but there was a composition named "Deer Boy". At first those little animals seem to be sleeping but their fur is all worn out and they look more dead to me at lest.

Not so spooky from behind, I guess.

Getting creepier.

Lighted close-up to show the weariness.

As if the boy is suffocating it with his boot!

In the exhibition a year ago the statues were strictly ceramics with paint and occasional silvered glass. In today's exhibition I saw new sculptures coated with nylon thread. If I understood correctly, electricity is used to make this beautiful green:

"Moss Girl"

 The next is one of my favourites, the "Killer of Swan-Snake". As you can see, this small child has ripped off the head of the creature.

I do apologize the quality of photos, once again I had only my phone with me, not a proper camera. :(

On Simonsson's webpage reads that "[H]e combines the innocent with an odd agenda" which I think is a very accurate way to define the statues of manga-like children. There is something estranging in those statues of children and animals.

I think that is also the very essence of today's gothic aesthetics; feeling alienated from the "normal" world and sinking willingly into the estrange.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Creepy reads review: "Gothic: Dark Glamour" by Steele & Park

This is a new section for my blog! Because I like reading (since I am a literature student it would be alarming if I didn't), I am starting to introduce good reads that fit the aesthetics of goth subculture, or are other way gothic and darkly inclined. The first Creepy reads review is a non-fiction, a research of goth subculture by Valerie Steele and Jennifer Park.

Their book Gothic: Dark Glamour was published by the Yale University Press year 2008 and I actually got my copy from the Library of University of Helsinki, so one can trust the research has been done well in this book. I found Steele's and Park's work in the area of Research of Art, the music studies section but two thirds of Gothic: Dark Glamour is about history of aesthetics and fashion. I guess in a polytechnic's library Gothic: Dark Glamour could easily be in the section of fashion and design.

In this book there are two section, the first is about the origins of goth subculture and how the aesthetics and different sub-genres have emerged. The first section then continues to view how the dark glamour of goths and of history have influenced 20th century fashion.

For me, new information was how much dandy has influenced goth culture. Of coarse I knew Baudelaire's The Flowers of Evil and how decadent and romantic characters like Baudelaire are appreciated in some sub-genres of goth but I did not know that darkly inclined dandies of 19th century had ripped their clothes on purpose like later punks and 80's goths!

I had a bit mixed feelings of the part in which the different sub-genres of goth and their typical dressing were described. Of coarse one has to make some sort of classifications and be slightly stereotypical to highlight the differences. I must admit I kind of got the feeling that they described the uniform of all sub-genres and if you mixed them up everyone would reject you. Of coarse it probably was not like that, especially in the real world. All in all, the classifications were clear and I'm sure they would help a person who is not a goth or who is not sure of their gothness to understand and recognize differences inside goth subculture.

I must admire how much the authors of Gothic: Dark Glamour have put effort in research, there are numerous interviews and they have found many designers who I did not know who were associated to goth or whose designs tend to be dark and sinister.

The second section of the book is written by Jennifer Park and it is titled "Melancholy and the Macabre: Gothic Rock and Fashion". I was glad to find that the music section begins with the pre-history of gothic rock, reflecting and analyzing The Velvet Underground, Dawid Bowie and Iggy Pop, and their influence on the sounds of gothic rock and the fashion of goths.

Park does not simply focus on the music but keeps in mind that a band is much more; how their album covers are designed, how they dress on gigs, what inspired them and so on. This book also reveals why many bands denied the attribute "goth". In publicity, "goth" was not a positive term for most people, it had negative connotations like fake, poser and naive. Many proto-goth bands felt like "goth" was more appearance, less substance, and they considered they had substance in their music.

I was really pleased to read about how certain bands got into publicity and how members of different bands interacted with each other. That is something I have never thought about, I don't know why. I also like how the book was printed on quality paper and all photos looked amazingly good. In summary, I recommend Gothic: Dark Glamour, especially to those who are interested of fashion and dark aesthetics. I could spend an hour just to look at one photo of Alexander McQueen's design or this Untitled, Stern 2005, which was in the book!