“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.”

“That Heartbreaking Invisible Place”

“She makes visible that heartbreaking invisible place between the appearance and the disappearance of things,” wrote Richard Avedon about photographer Lillian Bassman, who died at 94 in her home at Manhattan last week.

Like her contemporary Irving Penn, who passed away last year at age 92, Bassman worked on her art until the very end of her life. The photo above, titled “It’s a Cinch,” was taken for Harper’s Bazaar in 1951. At that time, model Stella Tennant, who appears in the shot below (part of this shoot for Vogue Germany), wasn’t even born yet – and wouldn’t be born for another 19 years.

Bassman lived an extraordinary life. The daughter of bohemian Russian-Jewish immigrants living in Brooklyn, she moved in with her husband, fellow artist Paul Himmel, when she 15. Together they survived through the Great Depression: Bassman worked as an artists’ model, while Himmel taught art. They were involved in political strikes of the era, and Bassman once picketed in the nude to protest arts financing cuts. Soon, she got a job co-art-directing Junior Bazaar, one of the most creative and experimental teen girl magazines that ever existed. Junior Bazaar failed because it was too out-there, but it launched Bassman’s fashion photography career, landing her gigs for Harper’s Bazaar.

Over the years, Bassman’s painterly, impressionistic style fell out of fashion.  Harper’s Bazaar editor Carmel Snow  famously said to her during a shoot, “I didn’t bring you to Paris to make art; I brought you here to do the buttons and bows.” Fed up with fashion photography, Bassman famously destroyed most of her negatives in the 60s. It wasn’t until the early 90s that a fashion historian urged her to revisit the few negatives she had left. Bassman began experimenting anew, and re-emerged as a force in fashion photography. She embraced new technologies, discovering Photoshop when she was 87.

After the jump, a collection of Bassman’s work, past and present.

An Experimental Film with Early Electronic Music Starring Anaïs Nin

Today, we celebrate what would have been Anaïs Nin’s 109th birthday by posting Bells of Atlantis, an experimental film from 1952.

The film stars Nin as the mythical queen of Atlantis and conveys, as Wonders in the Dark puts it, “the experience of trying to remember and re-experience a dream.” Over cascading experimental footage, Nin reads aloud from her novella House of Incest. We catch glimpses of her nude form swinging in a hammock, and we see her shadow undulating over sheer fabric blowing in the wind, but for the most part, the imagery, captured by Nin’s husband Ian Hugo, remains very abstract, creating a “sense of swimming through a hallucination, trying to get closer to a world clouded not only by its own hazy nature, but the veils of memory and reality cast over it – given form by the watery ambiance that washes over the images.”

Bebe Barron, an early pioneer of electronic music.

The soundscape was crafted by Louis and Bebe Barron, two pioneers of electronic music who are best known for composing the world’s first entirely electronic music score for The Forbidden Planet, which the Barrons filled with “bleeps, blurps, whirs, whines, throbs, hums, and screeches.” They built their own circuits, which they viewed as “cybernetic organisms,” and spliced together the sounds they made into collages. Louis did the work of creating the circuits, while Bebe did most of the composing. Their sound, wrote Nin, was akin to “a molecule that has stubbed its toes.” Bebe Barron was one of the first women in the field of electronic music, and in her last interview, she fondly recalls memories of her friend Anaïs.

[via wobbly]

Auberon Shull’s “Desert Dance”, and an Interview with Director Sequoia Emmanuelle

LA-based imagemaker/mover/shaker Sequoia Emmanuelle has just premiered this video of dancer Auberon Shull (definitely watch it full screen):

Filmed, edited and directed by Sequoia Emmanuelle
Dance by Auberon Shull
Hair and makeup by Ashley Joy Beck
Costumes by Tiffa Novoa and Auberon Shull
Music by Distance and Adventure Club

Auberon is a powerhouse. Sequoia, too, is a force of nature who has shot countless portrait series and fashion editorials with all manner of West Coast lovelies: SkingraftEskmo, Zoe Jakes and Rachel Brice (for Tawapa/Wild Card/Five and Diamond), Galareh, Kucoon, Beats AntiqueLucent Dossier Vaudeville Circus, El Circo… the list’s about a mile long. In addition to her photography portfolio and video work, Sequoia’s also got a well-established background in fashion design (check out her S&G Clothing line), wardrobe styling, painting, and graphic design.

Recently, she took the time to answer a few questions about her collaboration with Auberon, and to let us know what’s coming next. (Thank you, Sequoia! Always a pleasure.)

Much of the Coilhouse readership is already familiar with your photography, but this may be the first time many of us have (knowingly) watched a video by you. Can you tell us a bit about the differences and parallels between your creative process shooting/editing film and your photography methods?
Sequoia Emmanuelle: I grew up watching music videos, [they’re] a huge inspiration to me, and I have always planned on getting more involved with film/video as well as photography. In the last year I have been working on several videos for fashion, music and dance. It feels very natural to the way I see things for photography, but of course it is very different, too. For one thing, everything you shoot needs to be horizontal, so it changes the composition of how you set things up. Your lenses change, and lighting changes. You can’t use strobe lights for video, so you have to set things up quite differently. When it comes to editing, it’s quite involved, because you have to pay attention to all the moving details and make your cuts flow in an interesting and creative way, not to mention syncing up the music. Right now I am focusing on simple ways of creating artistic videos… using less is more for the time being, and I’ll surely get more experimental as I keep working at it.

Eyepatch Party!

Eyepatches have long been a staple of alt fashion. From visual kei to burlesque, the eyepatch has been used to accentuate elements of romanticism, glamour, and mystique throughout the ages.

Advertising giant David Ogilvy knew this in 1951 when he created “the man in the Hathaway shirt,” a campaign that put a tiny company on the map by featuring a distinguished-looking man with a mysterious eyepatch in a series of ads that continued to run for over 25 years and inspired dozens of copycats.

David “Wear the Eyepatch” Bowie knew this in 1972 when he popularized the patch during his Ziggy Stardust era, influencing everyone from Peter Burns to Rihanna. And of course, film directors know that an eyepatch can create the character, from Quentin Tarantino’s Elle Driver to John Carpenter’s Snake Plissen. It can be said that the most (come to think of it, the only) memorable thing from Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow was the sight of Angie with an eyepatch.

Of course, stylish eyepatches aren’t just for show. For centuries, people with eye ailments have incorporated the patch into their personal style. The first chic eyepatch-wearer may have been Spanish princess Doña Ana de Mendoza y de la Cerda. Around 1545, young Ana lost her eye in an accident during a playfight with one of her guards. Donning an eyepatch only fueled her popularity at the court, and it is said that she had a bejeweled eyepatch for every dress she owned.

Film director Fritz Lang’s eye problems started in 1916, the same year he stumbled into film. While recuperating from war wounds that would eventually cost him his eye, he began to write scripts and took up acting. In his younger years, he wore a monocle over his injured eye; later in life, an eyepatch under dark glasses. Knowing the director’s struggle towards monocular vision, Maria’s lingering robot wink in Metropolis somehow feels much more significant. Other fabulous/functional eyepatch-wearers include Slick Rick, James Joyce and Momus.

I never thought I’d have to wear an eyepatch for any reason other than a fashion shoot or a fancy night out. But following some recent eye problems, I have to wear one for at least a portion of each day, for at least a little while. Thus began my trawl through Tumblr, Flickr, and fashion blogs in search for the perfect patch. The search uncovered dozens of beautiful images from Coilhouse friends and family. After the jump, an epic collection of over 60 eyepatches featuring Mother of London, Salvador Dali, PUREVILE!, James Dean, Amelia Arsenic, Chad Michael Ward, Shien Lee, Antiseptic, Jane Doe, Alyz Tale, Atsuko Kudo and many others. I suspect that many of you have eyepatch photos as well. If you’ve got one, post it in the comments!

“My work is about leaving the door open to the imagination.” -Dorothea Tanning (1910 – 2012)

Sleeping Nude (1954) by Dorothea Tanning. Oil on canvas.

And she did. Countless others have walked through that door behind Dorothea Tanning– fellow iconoclasts and creative powerhouses (many women, but surely, many not) who might never have pursued their work otherwise.

Her independence, her intelligence, and her centenarian resolve to lead an extraordinary life no matter what, should be as central to her legacy as her art and writings. Tanning died in her sleep last night at the age of 101…

“…and pieces of history die with her. Artist, poet, wife of Max Ernst from 1946 until he died in 1976, and (along with Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington, Kay Sage, Lee Miller, Maya Deren, Remedios Varo, and Leonor Fini) one of a group of great women Surrealists, she was at the center of a movement that was a vicious mill for women. Among the surrealists, females — while ‘allowed’ to be artists — were often also relegated to the sidelines of neglected or beset mistresses, muses, and madwomen.” ~Jerry Saltz (for New York Magazine)

Birthday (1942) by Dorothea Tanning. Oil on canvas.

Her advice to younger generations: “Keep your eye on your inner world and keep away from ads, idiots and movie stars.”

The “Spirit Bomb” of Harajuku Culture

Featured previously on Coilhouse for her debut music video Pon Pon Pon, 19-year-old blogger-turned-singer Caroline Charonplop Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (also known is Kyary, or Carrie Pam) is back with a new music video for her single Tsukema Tsukeru.

According to Super Happy Awesome, the song is all about the application, appreciation, and effects of false eyelashes. Kicking off the video with a sparkly-lashed wink to Kanye’s Power (which was also parodied to great effect by Freddie Wong), Kyary celebrates the art of eyelash extension through lyrics (“It’s the magic in a type of eyelash / My confidence changes, the way I see the world changes”), choreography (plenty of jazz hands emulating the batting of full lashes), set design (with some terrifying CGI depictions of the (lash-bedecked) Hamsa Hand floating in the background), and, perhaps most potently, costume design (featuring an extra head on top of her wig wearing lashes, a rather anatomical-looking corset decorated with an eye pendant, and two giant false eyelashes on her boobs).

The same team that created Pon Pon Pon was responsible for Tsukema Tsukeru. The song was produced by Yasutaka Nakata, one half of the electronic duo capsule. The video was art-directed by Sebastian Masuda, a pioneer of “kawaii culture” who also founded Harajuku fashion label %6DOKIDOKI. Masuda and Kyary also recently collaborated on an exhibition titled Table of Dreams.

In describing his first meeting and subsequent collaboration with Kyary, Nakata calls her “the ‘spirit bomb’ of Harajuku culture.” (The spirit bomb, the translator explains, “refers to an attack in the classic anime ‘Dragon Ball’, which channels the energy of surrounding life forms into a powerful sphere.”) Kyary’s success, writes Nakata, lies in her ability to infect people with enthusiasm for her projects. “I think it’s because everyone who gathers around Kyary feels like, ‘if I were with Kyary, I’d be able to express things that are new to me.’ That is, of course, how I feel too. So it’s different from a collaboration, and – to tell the truth – even saying that I produce her has a different meaning. The closest I can get is saying, ‘I’m doing it just for the fun of it.’ I feel like Kyary has this power in her to involve people that way.”

See also:

[via Nicole Aptekar]

Music Video for Light Asylum’s “Skull Fuct”

Welcome back, comrades. That was an interesting 24 hours, eh?

Here’s a verrrrrry wonderfully stark and moody Light Asylum video (directed by Emilxa Xuryłowicz and Cezary Zacharewicz) to ease us back into full-fledged internetness:

(If you haven’t heard it yet, Light Asylum’s 2011 In Tension EP is phenomenal. Tangible run is already out of print, but you can download it.)

Compare and Contrast: Teen Girls Talking About Gender on YouTube

Two very different videos of teenage girls airing our their grievances on YouTube have gone viral in the past two days. Here they are. Compare and contrast:

On the uplifting side, we have a 13-year-old vlogger named astrorice articulating the concepts of slut shaming and rape culture. “While I am fully aware that this is a bit of an unorthodox topic for a thirteen year old virgin to be talking about, it’s an important issue to discuss, and a great topic for girls my age to know about,” writes astrorice.

As Aaron Muszalski noted on Facebook, “This is the most inspiring thing I’ve seen this year. Seriously a must-watch. An amazing young person speaking out — eloquently and forcefully — about a topic that many people much older than her still have a hard time wrapping their heads around. Or indeed, even acknowledging its existence. Major props. As unfortunate as the issue of slut shaming is, this video and its maker give me great hope for the future.”

And on the dark side, there’s this: a 14-year-old girl calling for the boycott of Girl Scouts due towards their inclusive policy towards transgendered kids: in particular, a 7-year-old transgender child who was allowed to join Girl Scouts in Colorado. Richard Metzger writes, “From what I can make of her argument, young Taylor here seems to think that high school age boys are suddenly going to want to wear drag and join the Girl Scouts so they can rape her or something? Taylor, there are far, far easier ways for teenage boys to get laid! … Do you really want to be the Rebecca Black of intolerance? For the rest of your life?” Audrey Penven adds, “Shame on her parents for sucking so hard. Shame on her community for nurturing this kind of close-mindedness.”

These children, they are our future.

Adorable Rocker Clogger Girl

Dusty Paik just shared this on her Facebook page:

Rocker Clogger is a spirited seventeen-year old American amateur clogger who likes to dance to Adam and the Ants, The Cure, David Bowie, Oingo Boingo, Siouxsie & the Banshees, and Johnny Cash.

From her cute costumes, to the peaceful backyard background sounds of birdsong and wind chimes and rustling trees in all of her clips, to that irrepressible “I Gotta Be Me” attitude of hers, everything about Rocker Clogger’s videos fills my heart with squee.

“I’m NOT a professional dancer! I’m just having fun.” Girl, do your thing. Never stop.

(Several clips are listed after the jump, and check out her YouTube page for plenty more.)

Rocker Clogger and equine friend.