“I am so goth, I was born black.”

Clockwise: Ms. Sally Bonetta Forbes, Cathleen Naundorf, Untitled (check out the rest of the “gothic lolita” tag as well), Roni Zulu

While there’s still never been a black model on the cover of Gothic Beauty Magazine (in fact, having looked the past twelve years of covers up close, it’s clear that even models with brown eyes appear to be a rarity among the blue- and green-eyed cover ladies), and while most spooky fashion designers still prefer white models for their branding, a host of blogs dedicated to multicultural dark fashion are bringing greater visibility to the people that these venues ignore. Just on Tumblr, there’s Darque & Lovely, DarkSKIN (subtitled “I was so goth, I was born black), and Black Sheep Goths. On Facebook, groups such as Black/African American Goths foster lively discussion.

Of the Tumblr communities, Black Sheep focuses most specifically on people who are othered (providing a platform for “queer/fat/trans/non-binary/disabled/POC” goths), while DarkSKIN delves most deeply into different time periods (from Victorian photographs to seventies album covers to a friend’s most recently-uploaded snapshots), pop culture personalities taking a turn for the macabre (from Eartha Kitt singing “I want to be evil” to Aaliyah playing a sultry Anne Rice vampire) and media (from high-end fashion shoots to grainy self-portraits)

Many of the images come with empowering and, at times, defensive captions. It seems that even in 2012, some try to claim that the goth scene belongs to white people only. One caption on the Darque & Lovely blog, below an image of tattoo artist Roni Zulu, reads: “this is for the chicken-shit anon who said black people shouldn’t ‘do’ goth or punk. At certain points in history to be black in America was (still can be) a pretty gothic experience, to say the least.”

Clockwise: Asha Beta/Silentinfinite collaboration, Neon Leon, photo by Mert and Marcus, Actress Vonetta McGee as Princess Luva in Blacula, photo copyright Everett Collection / Rex Features

Is the goth scene unfriendly to people with dark skin? What do non-white goths think about the fetishization of paleness in the gothic subculture?

“The only time I experienced anything racial in the scene was at Death Guild [a San Francisco goth night],” says Shamika “Meeks” Baker, a San Francisco-based writer, artist and model. “A guy walked up to me, shouted ‘scuse me!’ and shoved me aside. Of couse, when I grabbed the back of his Fun Fur coat and yanked him back to demand an apology, he started screaming ‘get your black hands off of me!’ Happily, after I finished scaring him and turned around, I discovered several of my friends behind me and ready to back me up. [Other than that incident], I’ve found that the goth scene has been really welcoming and open.”

“For me, the fetishization of paleness in beauty in general is very much a class issue as opposed to straight race,” says New York-based artist/maker Numidas Prasarn. “The ‘ideal gothic beauty’ of being pale comes from this sense of otherness. When mainstream de mode is tanned beach babe, the pale contrast is taken up as the signifier of an Other that defensively puffs itself up. The problem is that it’s a microcosm that doesn’t necessary carry the sense of self-awareness to realize that it’s also othering people.”

Clockwise: Amanda Tea, Barron Claiborne, Leif Podhajsky, Unknown from Burning Man by Iñaki Vinaixa

Asha Beta, a sculptor, jewelry designer and musician currently living in Prescott, Arizona, comments on her invisibility within a community that borrows aesthetics from her cultural heritage:

The “traditional” ideal of the scene as the pale-faced, black-clad individual definitely never applied to me, but because of my instant and deep connection and attraction to the music and atmosphere of the scene I had to set that aside. I always felt that I was not perceived to be as attractive, as beautiful or even as “goth” as girls who were paler than me. I never attracted many suitors and I reconciled myself to never being able to approach the “gothic ideal of beauty” very early on, although I felt within myself that my personal way of being “goth” was very sincere and creative and very much true to what “goth” was all about. The one part of the scene that obviously made me uncomfortable was the military/Nazi/Aryan faction of it, although I understand that for many of those people it was a fetish or history obsession type of thing, and not necessarily based in racism.

Many of the aesthetics of goth culture are taken from my cultural heritage (Asian/East Indian/Middle Eastern, African/Egyptian/Voodoo/Haitian-Caribbean) so I still felt and feel strongly that my connection to it is natural and instinctive and powerful. It was achingly difficult to be a minority within the subculture I deeply loved because it’s within these that we find acceptance and understanding where the larger society rejects us. I was a loner within the scene just as I was in society. I found a personal solace and creative outlet, but I never found the community I was searching for. I am overjoyed to finally see our subcultures mirroring the multicultural quality of our world, and so glad to see the younger generations of subcultures finding and creating communities to connect with and support one another.

Meeks Baker agrees. “I love that more emerging blogs/sites focus on us dark-skinned gothy types. To be honest, I never really cared much for gothic beauty magazines because they didn’t really reflect my aesthetic, but I did still feel marginalized. To this day I am thrilled to see ethnic diversity represented in alternative culture.”

Wayne White: “Beauty Is Embarrassing”

Wayne White is an American artist, puppeteer, sculptor, set designer, cartoonist, art director, animator, and illustrator whose influence on popular culture has been quietly vast. As Mark Mothersbaugh puts it: “Kids [in the ’80s] mainlined it. He was imprinting their brains, and they don’t even know it.” Filmmaker Neil Berkeley’s new documentary about White’s roller coaster career and personal life looks like it’s packed-to-bursting with inspiration and warm-fuzzies and whimsy and pathos:

“Raised in the mountains of Tennessee, Wayne White started his career as a cartoonist in New York City. He quickly found success as one of the creators of the TV show, Pee-wee’s Playhouse, which led to more work designing some of the most arresting and iconic images in pop culture. Most recently, his word paintings, which feature pithy and often sarcastic text statements crafted onto vintage landscape paintings, have made him a darling of the fine art world.”

Beauty Is Embarrassing chronicles the vaulted highs and the crushing lows of a commercial artist struggling to find peace and balance between his work and his art. Acting as his own narrator, Wayne guides us through his life using moments from his latest creation: a hilarious, biographical one-man show.”

The world premiere of Beauty Is Embarrassing will take place on March 10th at SXSW. Click through below to see more examples of Wayne White’s multifaceted work.

Beauty is Embarrassing film still, featuring White wearing his LBJ paper mache puppet head.

Ed Sanders: Fuck You, A Magazine of the Arts (1962-1965)

“Fuck You” Opening Party is tomorrow (Thursday, February 16th) from 6pm-9pm. Exhibition closes Thursday, March 8th. Boo-Hooray is open every day from 11am-6pm.

There’s a gallery space down on Canal St. in NYC called Boo-Hooray; it’s a splendid place dedicated to 20th/21st century counterculture ephemera, photography, and book arts. Tomorrow evening (Thursday, Feb 16th) is the opening night for their most recent exhibition: a comprehensive collection of publications from Ed Sanders’ legendary Fuck You Press, including a complete run of Fuck You, A Magazine of the Arts.

Ed Sanders‘ an unofficial patron saint of the 20th century underground who has often been referred to as “the bridge between the Beat and Hippie Generations”.  More specifically, he’s a poet, singer, activist, author, and publisher. Any way you cut ‘n’ paste it, this man broke the mold and the mimeograph!

Boo-Hooray’s exhibition of fabulous Fuck You-ness will commemorate the publication of Sanders’ characteristically feisty, funny memoir, Fug You: An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the Fuck You Press, the Fugs, and Counterculture in the Lower East Side (Da Capo Press).

Sanders shares a bit of history about his publication:

“In February of 1962 I was sitting in Stanley’s Bar at 12th and B with some friends from the Catholic Worker. We’d just seen Jonas Mekas’s movie Guns of the Trees, and I announced I was going to publish a poetry journal called Fuck You, A Magazine of the Arts. There was a certain tone of skepticism among my rather inebriated friends, but the next day I began typing stencils, and had an issue out within a week. I bought a small mimeograph machine, and installed it in my pad on East 11th, hand-cranking and collating 500 copies, which I gave away free wherever I wandered. (…)

Fuck You was part of what they called the Mimeograph Revolution, and my vision was to reach out to the “Best Minds” of my generation with a message of Gandhian pacifism, great sharing, social change, the expansion of personal freedom (including the legalization of marijuana), and the then-stirring messages of sexual liberation.

I published Fuck You, A Magazine of the Arts from 1962 through 1965, for a total of thirteen issues. In addition, I formed a mimeograph press which issued a flood of broadsides and manifestoes during those years, including Burroughs’s Roosevelt After Inauguration, Carol Bergé’s Vancouver Report, Auden’s Platonic Blow, The Marijuana Review, and a bootleg collection of the final Cantos of Ezra Pound.

Other contributors to Fuck You included Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, Julian Beck, Ray Bremser, Lenore Kandel, Charles Olson, Tuli Kupferberg, Joel Oppenheimer, Peter Orlovsky, Philip Whalen, Herbert Huncke, Frank O’Hara, Leroi Jones, Diane DiPrima, Gary Snyder, Robert Kelly, Judith Malina, Carl Solomon, Gregory Corso, Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, Michael McClure, Ted Berrigan, Joe Brainard, Gilbert Sorrentino, and countless others.

It was a ‘zine “dedicated to free expression, defying taboo subjects, celebrating sexual liberation and the use of psychedelics years before the Summer of Love. Sanders and his collaborators bridged the Beats of the Fifties and the counterculture of the late Sixties, and helped define many of the differences between the two—the latter building on the breakthroughs initiated by the former.”

The Fuck You opening party is happening Thursday, February 16th – 6pm-9pm. Sanders will be reading from/signing copies of his book. Exhibition closes Thursday, March 8th. Boo-Hooray is open every day from 11am-6pm.

New Yorkers! Don’t miss this! (And by all means, report back in comments.)

(Hat tip to William Gibson.)

“A Homogenous, Cancerous, Rhizomatic Junkspace”

Map of the Online Communities by XKCD, 2007. Larger version.

J.G. Ballard one said that his biggest fear was that the future would be boring. He feared the future would be “a vast, conforming suburb of the soul.” The notion, as applied to the Internet, was recently explored in two pieces on the changing face of internet culture.

Both are wonderfully-written, playful and full of insight. The first of these The Death of the Cyberflâneur, an opinion piece penned by Evgeny Morozov for the New York Times.

Thanks to the French poet Charles Baudelaire and the German critic Walter Benjamin, both of whom viewed the flâneur as an emblem of modernity, his figure (and it was predominantly a “he”) is now firmly associated with 19th-century Paris. The flâneur would leisurely stroll through its streets and especially its arcades — those stylish, lively and bustling rows of shops covered by glass roofs — to cultivate what Honoré de Balzac called “the gastronomy of the eye.” … it’s easy to see, then, why cyberflânerie seemed such an appealing notion in the early days of the Web. The idea of exploring cyberspace as virgin territory, not yet colonized by governments and corporations, was romantic; that romanticism was even reflected in the names of early browsers (“Internet Explorer,” “Netscape Navigator”). …

In the second half of the 19th century, Paris was experiencing rapid and profound change. The architectural and city planning reforms advanced by Baron Haussmann during the rule of Napoleon III were particularly consequential: the demolition of small medieval streets, the numbering of buildings for administrative purposes, the establishment of wide, open, transparent boulevards … But if today’s Internet has a Baron Haussmann, it is Facebook. Everything that makes cyberflânerie possible — solitude and individuality, anonymity and opacity, mystery and ambivalence, curiosity and risk-taking — is under assault by that company. It’s easy to blame Facebook’s business model (e.g., the loss of online anonymity allows it to make more money from advertising), but the problem resides much deeper. Facebook seems to believe that the quirky ingredients that make flânerie possible need to go. “We want everything to be social,” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said on “Charlie Rose” a few months ago.

Updated Map of the Online Communities by XKCD, 2010. Larger version here.

In response, Jesse Darling has penned a brilliant response essay titled Arcades, Mall Rats, and Tumblr Thugs over at The New Inquiry:

Evgeny Morozov writes from Palo Alto, a Californian charter city established by the founding father of Stanford University, at which Morozov is a visiting fellow. Palo Alto, nestled in a dewy corner of Silicon Valley, has been at various times home to Google, Paypal, Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard: a prime piece of sun-drenched, Nor-Cal sprawl. Social media is to the Read/Write Web what sprawl is to the metropolis of modernity: a homogenous, cancerous, rhizomatic junkspace that expands exponentially outward on a sludgy wave of strip malls and sponsored links, greed and induced demand. This ruthless modernization produces miles of “junkspace” — a term coined by the architect Rem Koolhaas, who wrote that “more and more, more is more. Junkspace is overripe and undernourishing at the same time, a colossal security blanket that covers the earth in a stranglehold of seduction…

Junkspace is like being condemned to a perpetual Jacuzzi with millions of your best friends. Seemingly an apotheosis, spatially grandiose, the effect of its richness is a terminal hollowness, a vicious parody of ambition that systematically erodes the credibility of building, possibly forever.” Koolhaas was referring to the airport and the strip-mall and the single-zone sprawl, but he could have been talking about Facebook…. If space is a practiced place, then collective navigation produces the commons. Like mall rats flipping tricks in a parking lot, users exhibit a feral fluency in the use (and transgression, as it is reimagined daily) of this common timespace: we tune out the ads and get on with the serious business of flirting, hustling, hanging out and talking shit. We know that this serious business is affective labor which produces capital for the custodians of netspace; indeed, meme culture (including but not limited to YouTube parody, stock photo art, cut-ups and image macros) can be seen as the user asserting a subjectivity that exists and thrives despite (and beyond) her status as targeted marketing demographic. Like the Occupy movement, these activities amount to a kind of politics of the public (virtual) body in (virtual) space. We may never own the means of production as such, but will continue to assert, pervert and subvert the commons anyway: a gesture of post-corporeal territorial pissing which necessitates neither phallus nor spray-can nor html.

The Internet: Serious Business. Well-played.

On a tangentially related note:

Happy Hanukkah from ANVIL

Canada’s Hour Holiday Special of 2009 had a LOT going for it: Our Lady Peace, Metric (with the choir Carol of the Bells), Norah Jones, even Michael Bublé! *cough*

But best of all, it included this passionate rendition of “Hanukkah! Hanukkah!” by the Toronto-orignated heavy metal trio, ANVIL:

Previously on Coilhouse:

Thomas Negovan’s TED Talk “By Popular Demand”

Our dear and charming and preternaturally intelligent friend Mister Thomas Negovan was recently invited to give a TED talk in the midwest United States wherein he shared, among more personal revelations, “how unearthing obsolete technologies teaches us about our future.” Here it is:

Thomas, in addition to making music and running the Century Guild art gallery, regularly lectures all over the world on subjects ranging from Art Nouveau to Weimar-era Berlin cabaret; his talk on the subject of populism and technology is both informative and self-assured.

As one who shares Thomas’ interest in archaic technology and antique musical instruments, and as a fellow wax cylinder experimenter, I found the live/real-time demonstration of the wax cylinder machine especially intriguing!

Thomas’ sexy wax cylinder player, playing to the crowd at our fundraising Ball last summer in NYC.

LONG LIVE RUBULAD. (Keep the Party Going!)

“I had some kind of epiphany about not chasing something in the above-ground world. Something happened in me that I no longer wanted to be in a band that wanted to be famous and go on tour. I just wanted to do something that was ours. I guess it was firmly planting myself in the underground, not after some kind of success that my parents would like.

…In the olden days of New York they had bands and dancing. Dancing and performers of every kind — spoken word, circus, whatever — in the same venue. Places like the Mud Club or Danceteria had a lot of different spaces and a lot of different installations and all kinds of different people went.

And then this weird thing happened when it suddenly became all giant discos and little rock bars. And those people never went to the same place anymore. It seemed like when we started doing Rubulad that people really wanted to be in the same space. They wanted to watch a band and go dance. And be happy.”

~Sari Rubinstein, co-founder of Rubulad, interviewed by Nonsense NYC

Photo via the Essentialist.

Oh, loves. We cover a lot of micropatronage drives on da ‘Haus, but the Rubulad Kickstarter project is especially near and dear. They have been an indescribably huge inspiration to many, many people involved with Coilhouse.

What is Rubulad? Back in 1993, two lovely souls named Sari Rubinstein and Chris Thomas took out a lease on a 5,000 square foot basement in south Williamsburg. Maybe a dozen other people got in on that initial deal, mostly artists and musicians in need of a cheap communal space where they could spread out and work. They all started building up and decorating the space communally. Soon, it became a fun, subterranean hang-out location that drew all sorts of kindred spirits together for dinners, readings, rehearsals, etc.

After a while, Sari, Chris, and their cohorts started throwing parties to cover each month’s rent. Over the course of the next few years, Rubulad (cleverly named with touch-tone letters that corresponded to the space’s phone number)’s space began to evolve, to literally bloom (with vibrant paper flowers, glittering murals, rope vines, colored glass, paper mache sculptures), and the parties developed into these elaborately themed bohemian blow-outs. They. Are. Fucking. AMAZING. For seventeen years now…

(Hang on, let’s take a moment. Seventeen. YEARS.


…Rubulad has been instrumental in planning and throwing all kinds of events. They’ve already had to move their main warehouse space twice, but their warm, inviting DIY ethic has never faltered or changed; it’s only grown stronger.

World AIDS Day

In 1985, when Coil recorded this cover of the Gloria Jones tune (not long after Soft Cell), frank and open discussion of the HIV/AIDS crisis was still considered taboo. Many media sources were too uncomfortable with/outright offended by Peter Christopherson‘s “Tainted Love” music video (featuring partner John Balance as a dying man, and Marc Almond as the Angel of Death) to acknowledge its existence.

Coil’s Scatology single Panic/Tainted Love was, in fact, the very first official AIDS benefit music release, with all profits from sales donated to the Terrence Higgins Trust. Coil’s following full-length release, Horse Rotorvator, is also steeped in themes and emotions engendered by several AIDS-related deaths in Christopherson’s and Balance’s circle of friends. (HR is arguably the most influential record Coil ever made– as bleak, fearless, and uncompromising as they could get… which is really saying something.)

Today, Coil’s “Tainted Love” music video is widely considered a creative and cultural watermark on humanity’s ongoing battle against AIDS, and has been put on permanent display at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.

It’s all-too-easy in 2011 to take it for granted that candid discussion of HIV/AIDS is not only acceptable, but encouraged. And yet, we’ve still got a long way to go.

On a more personally related note, a longtime carnival chum, supporter of Coilhouse, and fellow alt-culture editor (of the splendid Culture Flux Magazine), kSea Flux, is at this moment in the ICU of San Francisco General Hospital, fighting the fight of his life. Please keep him in your thoughts. (Should you feel moved to, you can also donate to kSea’s health-care fund by using PayPal: ksea@culturefluxmagazine.com.) Lots of love, kSea.

Our mutual friend Whitney Moses, whose name you may remember from this blog post, will be pedaling from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the 2012 AIDS/LifeCycle ride in honor of kSea and other loved ones, in memory of her father, and to raise more money and awareness in the ongoing battle against the disease. She says:

“Being a rider is a big challenge for me as I’ve never been much of a cyclist, but it’s worth it. This fight is important to me for so many reasons. From losing my father to AIDS as a child, to witnessing friends suffer now with this disease, it has been a major player in the lives around me for most of my life. Every little bit helps.”

She will ride with Coilhouse’s financial support, and hopefully that of some of our readers. Thank you, Whitney!

Occupy Everywhere: The West Coast

My tour has kept me from spending as much time at the Occupations as I would have liked, so some of these observations were made in brief visits. Writing this piece took me a long time because, as a fan girl of the revolution, I was uncomfortable with my negative feelings towards the occupations – especially in light of such horrendous police brutality in Oakland, CA. But I also believe that opposing opinions, dissent and criticism are very necessary for the movement, and that supporters should not be afraid to voice their concerns and observations.

Photo by Margaret Killjoy.


My own visit to Occupy Oakland was brief and pre-dated all the police violence, but it had a lot going for it, a racially diverse crowd, the OWS standards of kitchen, library, and medical tent, its own police, and a feeling of community. Oakland is a city that needs all the forward, peaceful momentum it can get. Oakland is also a very progressive Occupation, pushing for radical actions such as the general strike on November 2nd, and for the peaceful occupation of foreclosed and abandoned properties in Oakland. Those are both brave initiatives. The occupation of foreclosed properties being especially dangerous, not only because of the police force but because Oakland can be a very dangerous city regardless of the police.

Occupy Oakland Reportage, Part II.

There’s been a lot of intense stuff goin’ down in Oakland, California this week. In this post, Myles Boisen shares two more installments of his ongoing documentation and  assessments of #OO with us: “SHUT DOWN”, which was written on November 3rd, 2011, after tens of thousands of protesters marched to the Port of Oakland, and “WHAT NEXT?”,  which was sent out early this morning.  -Mer


Port of Oakland SHUT DOWN
Wells Fargo SHUT DOWN
Bank of America SHUT DOWN
Comerica Bank SHUT DOWN
Chase Bank SHUT DOWN
Union Bank SHUT DOWN
Bank of the West SHUT DOWN
Burger King SHUT DOWN
Walgreen’s SHUT DOWN

Highlights of the Oakland general strike:

10 a.m. As I start reading news feeds I see Angela Davis is addressing the early morning crowd at 14th and Broadway. Unconfirmed rumors come and go that the Port of Oakland is already closed, with possible wildcat strike action and trucks unable to get through.

12 p.m. I arrive at Oscar Grant Plaza. On the way over radio coverage on KPFA-FM says that Wells Fargo bank is already shut down. People are streaming continuously toward downtown on foot and on bicycles. The crowd at 14th and Broadway is estimated at 5,000 or more. With friends I tour the area, photographing banks and corporate businesses that have shut their doors due to the strike. The crowd is made up of elders, working people, union representatives, teachers, religious leaders, and schoolchildren present with their parents.

By the BART station we meet Ethel, a senior citizen who is gathering signatures on a petition to end the death penalty in California. One member of our party – Phil, a well-read anarcho-syndicalist – has recently moved to Alameda County, and Ethel suggests that he can go to City Hall to get the requisite voter registration papers. Could City Hall possibly be open today? We go on a mission to find out.