Saturday, June 29, 2019

exquisite damage and the suburban gothic

This weekend, I am working through some more fine tuning edits on exquisite damage, which is mostly done, but needed a little distance to iron out some rough spots.  This week, I also am planning a couple more collages to accompany the text portions.  I started the project thinking about my love of the horror genre, of the gothic, particularly a more suburban, midwest gothic that plays such a central role in many horror classics (Halloween and It Follows come immediately to mind.)  The sort of things that lurk at the edges of the world we think we know. It's origins are similar, but it's manifestations different from purely rural gothic--theres a thicker gloss on it all--a variation between the perception and the reality.

I worked with something similar in the shared properties of water and stars--that dark shadow sitting squat under suburbia, but this project is more personal and grounded in my experience as a child who loved horror and grew up in the 70's & 80's. Last spring, one of the speakers at the pop culture conference on horror touched on the definition of the gothic--how even in the Victorian ages, it's appeal lie in a safe way to transcend the relative safety of the middle class.  If we were comfortable--not in actual danger--we sought out ways to experience similar danger from a a safe remove.

When I was a teen, I had all these romantic fantasies that involved whatever boy I was crushing on at the time saving me from something--a disaster, a plague, a plane crash. the apocalypse.  It was a twisted princess fantasy I suppose--the prize not so much security, but survival.

"Sometimes, I'm swimming and there's a body, floating bloated in the water. I scream and the man who saves me gets to have me.  Which is pretty much the plot to everything."

The rush of being afraid, that rush of endorphins was similar to that of love.  Or at least my fevered teenage mind thought so.

And of course, imagined fears only go so far in touching on the REAL fears of suburbia--kidnappings, rapes, school shootings. (less prevalent, of course, in my years, but viewable in the lens now.)  But even these need a safe distance--survivors of actual trauma do not always like horror (with a few exceptions). All the urban legends we think we're are afraid of vs. the very real things there are to be frightened of. 

What I wound up with is a series of vignettes mixed with personal experience, something not quite just prose poems, not quite lyric essay, also something that, by presence of myself as "writer" addressing you, as a " reader" becomes a little bit meta.--an echo to victorian gothicism.  The visual elements are a nod to midcentury style--lots of detritus like floral wallpaper, shampoos ads, television sets, and creepy basement seances. 

Eventually, I intend for them all to be a zine project, and the text fragments themselves to be part of my longer dark county manuscript. In the meantime, for a peak into this series, some links:

* (w/ accompanying artwork)

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