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.