God as an architect
Objectivity, parochialness and Orkla-Mecom

Gothic Nightmares

This fun article in The Guardian about how parents whose teens are flirting with the Gothic movement have no need to worry, prompted me to do some serious soul searching.

So much so that it took me a few weeks to write about it and another few months to publish it. Thing is, I'm very much, at least most of the time, in love with life, the future and happy endings, but I've also had, at least in my teens, a preponderance for things dark, complex and deep, like Russian literature and Stoic philosophy. In fact, in my early teens I had a bit of an obsession with Marcus Aurelius, the Cathars and William Blake, the latter also called the rebel par excellencia of English poetry. At the time, I found Blake's criticism of Christianity, like in "The Everlasting gospel", a bit of a revelation.

In reminiscence of my early affection for Blake, I dragged a friend along to see "Gothic Nightmares" when it opened on Tate Britain in February. The exhibition, featuring paintings by William Blake and Henry Fuseli, explores the roots of The Gothic. To quote from Tate Britain's website:

"As a literary phenomenon, the Gothic has had an enduring influence. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), and the novels of Matthew ‘Monk’ Lewis, William Beckford and Ann Radcliffe are still widely read. The Gothic continues to influence film and TV – from classics like Nosferatu (1922) through to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2002). This exhibition is the first to explore the roots of this phenomenon in the visual arts of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century."

We entered through a red curtain, and was met by Fuseli's Nightmare, before moving on to the room of Perverse Classicism, followed by rooms dedicated to witches, apparitions, goblins and other(-worldly) creatures lurking in the subconscious of the period's artists. I must admit I found the exhibition somewhat surreal, tough many of the voyeurs were more scary than the pictures on view. My friend loved it, but the art struck me as the obvious predecessor to kitsch, which means, perhaps I'm cured of my subconscious gothic infatuation.


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