Surveys Closing!

The current surveys will be closed for analysis on

August 15th 2015


 https://isgothjustaphase.com/2015/05/20/goth-subculture-survey/

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the surveys.
Additional shorter surveys will follow for those who wish to stay involved.

I am following up the surveys with interviews and group discussions, first in the UK.

I will be scheduling interviews in London around October 18th 2015

& then to coincide with the Bram Stoker Film Festival and Whitby Goth Weekend in Whitby October 22nd – November 1st 2015.

 

Thank you for taking the survey - if you are coming to Whitby and you are interested in taking part in the project, let me know, it would be great to talk in person.

Thank you for taking the survey – if you are coming to Whitby and you are interested in taking part in the project, let me know, it would be great to talk in person.

Contact me via Facebook – Goth Phase or at isgothjustaphase.com

I look forward to sharing findings from the surveys in the coming months.

Thanks again for supporting this project, and I might just see you at Whitby!!!
Emma.

 


Just a Phase? Goth Subculture as an identity constant beyond youth.  

Finding the right words

Finding the right words

A central pillar of commencing my research has been the identification of the term ‘Goth’ as being a culturally acceptable moniker for the broader phenomenon of the Gothic subculture and its various subsets. As discussed by Sweet[1], there is an apparent shortage of empirical and interview data from which to analyse and extend discourse on the Goth subculture and its participants; this research project seeks to contribute to rectifying this deficit. Survey reply volumes received to date well exceed my initial estimates for responses; consequently appropriate analysis of compiled data will take considerable time. In obtaining a high response rate I hope to best represent the subculture, statistically, and provide an extensive account of and insights into the personal, social and stylistic motivations of the scene.

Prior to writing the surveys for this study, I invested much time and consideration into finding the right words to describe the subculture and its participants. Among my initial methodologies was surveying myself and assessing my own attitudes and feelings towards the terminology used by, for, about and on the subculture before talking further about those terms with friends and acquaintances in the scene.

Chief among my decisions was a definitive “No Gothic” approach.

Selection of words used by survey respondents to describe & discuss Goth

Snapshot of words used by survey respondents to describe & discuss Goth

As described in the brief ‘notes on terminology’[2] provided at the start of my surveys, my own reading of the term Gothic is very much to do with identifiable periods of historical aesthetics, architecture and the Gothic revivalist tradition of the 19th century. All these feature heavily in the Goth subculture, and are indeed critical in defining its style, design and aesthetics.

However, for me, Goth is not Gothic. Goth exists in its own right as a personal style, an identity signifier, quite distinct from architecture or literary genres. Goth, in my view, has consummately established itself to such an extent that it can be viewed as its own phenomenon, its own thing beyond a subculture – a culture.

When writing my research questions, I was acutely aware that my positioning of Goth in all its forms as a discrete phenomenon may not be shared by all my fellow scene participants, and would most likely be challenged academically. In the interests of stimulating debate and furthering discussions on the notion of Goth as a culture which extends its importance throughout life, I felt this distinction was, and is, warranted.

As the first point of enquiry, my surveys ask respondents to chose a Goth aesthetic with which they most identify, respondents are further asked to describe the subculture and provide terms they most associate with the subculture[3]. Since commencing analysis of the initial response data, patterns are emerging which reveal the complexity of terminology used within the culture, and reflect the ongoing struggle of participants to self-identify using consistent catch-all terms or even a common set of terms.

Respondents exhibit a genuine desire to contribute to the discussion and understanding of the culture and its motivations, providing detailed personal accounts of their involvement in the culture and applying intellectual rigour to their answers to ensure their notions of subcultural identity are unambiguous. Rather than engaging in a collective “quasi-nostalgia for an imagined past”[4] participants appear to fully engage with efforts to authentically portray the culture and consistently express a desire to provide credible representations of the stylistic choices made when adopting such a recognisable subcultural identity. That the subculture can withstand such critique from within, illustrates the level of maturity reached by the culture and the conviction of some participants in its constancy beyond a youthful experiment.

Goth aesthetics (or Goth identity types)

Goth aesthetics (or Goth identity types)

The data to date demonstrates participants’ capacity to cogently self-analyse their relationships with Goth, as well as articulating a genuine desire to provide a measured and truthful description of stylistic and social convictions of the culture. In considering early data snapshots it is apparent the notion of conscious, individualised and considered self-identification is fundamental to participants. When provided with a list of seventeen recognised Goth aesthetics (or identity types) a significant proportion of respondents chose option 18 (‘other’ response category) and provided their own authentic interpretation of Goth.

A demonstration of the significance respondents place on terminology can further be seen in the vocabulary used by participants to describe their image, subcultural style and identity (as per the illustration above).  Preliminary analysis of free-text responses has demonstrated respondents have a thorough understanding of the social and cultural implications of their active association with an ‘outsider’ culture.

Additionally, several respondents have made direct email contact to elaborate further on their answers and provide clarification on terminology in relation to social interactions and beliefs in order to ensure suitable labels are applied to Goth identity in public discourse.

Goth subculture, like any other social group, relies on its own unconscious/unspoken rules and conventions, social etiquettes and visual signifiers to communicate belonging.  The broad spectrum of striking apparel evident in the now decades old scene, promotes stylistic flexibility within the culture, and allows participants to experiment with different images without abandoning fundamental Goth sensibilities.

The “sense of theatre… created and enhanced by the diversity of costumes and looks”[5] that the subculture now fosters, enables participants to embody varied incarnations of their Goth persona and express individualised interpretations of Goth style without losing that necessary sense of belonging to the culture. That Goth culture sustains such a diverse range of distinct ‘types’ of Goths is testament to the scene’s ability to adapt, embrace and indulge different passions and preoccupations – however we label them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Sweet, Derek R. More Than Goth: The Rhetorical Reclamation of the Subcultural Self Popular Communication, 2005, Vol.3(4), p.239-264 pp243

[2] See: isgothjustaphase.com – surveys

[3] For example: International Survey Question 5 “Choosing from the list below – with which of the Goth aesthetics do you most identify (choose most appropriate or provide your own answer)”

[4] Cherry, B. and Mellins, M. (2012), ‘Negotiating the Punk in Steampunk: Subculture, Fashion & Performative Identity’, Punk & Post-Punk 1: 1, pp. 5–25, doi: 10.1386/punk.1.1.5_1

[5] Christina Goulding & Michael Saren (2009) Performing identity: an analysis of gender expressions at the Whitby goth festival, Consumption Markets & Culture, 12:1, 27-46, DOI: 10.1080/10253860802560813

Back in the Day: Perth Goth Club Scene 1989-1998

GothEye Back in the Day: Memories of the Perth Goth Club Scene 1989-1998 As discussed in a previous post, I have been exploring the visual nature of the Goth community as a source of inspiration and impetus for my research.  By digging through my old shoe-boxes of clubbing memorabilia and photographing some of its contents I am attempting to catalogue an indicative selection of club flyers, gig pamphlets and other ephemera from the Perth[1] Goth scene in the decade 1989-1998. A few are included here, and I will continue to add more to my Pinterest page as I digitise them throughout this project. During this time there were several highly creative, motivated and capable people in the Perth scene who collectively made stuff happen!

Amnesia 1

Amnesia Club Entry Card …Admit One

The flyers provide an illustration of the club/event activities of the subculture at the time; the start of this time period marks my early involvement in the club scene through my most active clubbing years during which I helped organise and promote Goth and Goth-Industrial club nights. The geographic isolation of Perth inspired an entrepreneurial approach to social enterprise within the Goth scene during this period.  With the costs of travel high, bands seldom scheduled lengthy tours of Australia, and when they did the far-flung city of Perth was often left off itineraries.

Who else remembers the I need a Cure tour petition??

Firm2

Inner City Firm – Club entry card c.1991

While this resulted in a limited number of major bands performing in the city during this period,  it succeeded in creating a self-supporting culture with an active club and local bands scene. Additionally, for some this isolation inspired travel and provided a catalyst for establishing connections between Goths living in Perth and communities overseas and interstate, which in itself generated diversity through drawing in external influences.

Skin Atrocity 3rd Birthday

Skin – The New Loft

Most people involved in the Perth Goth scene during this period actively contributed towards sustaining its social and economic activities beyond attendance at club nights and gigs. Members of the subculture established record stores, fashion design labels/stores, club nights, publications and other services to keep the subculture not just alive but thriving. A result of this communal desire to improve and support the subculture was a proliferation of specialised club nights and events, (particularly between 1992-5) organised by scene members with the support of nightclub proprietors.  The level of activity, as illustrated by these flyers, gave the Perth Goth and Industrial scene a strong support base which was further enhanced by retail enterprises such as specialist stores and aesthetic services such as body piercing, tattooing and hair-dressing.

The-Loft4

The Loft

This evolving sophistication of the Goth culture is also reflected in the production quality of the scene-generated ephemera.  Initially, the quality of the materials appears secondary to the primary purpose of effectively advertising events to the subculture in suitably familiar language, using in-culture references and styles to speak to the ‘right’ audience.   Improvements in technology, access to materials and reduction in printing costs during this period is evidenced by the transition of many of the brochures from cheap, photocopied amateur productions to more professional materials. Within this vibrant community, the emergence of subgenres is evidenced in the various club pamphlets.  Some venues specialised in particular styles of music – industrial, alternative, indie-pop, Goth – and  provided a venue in which events could be scheduled so as to satisfy the shared tastes of subsets within the larger Goth population.  Individual DJs delivered dependable setlists which catered to the needs of the various key audiences.

Ascension1

Ascension

Growing from the Punk scene, early Goth nightclubs of the late 1980s (such as The Red Parrot, Asylum, Inner City Firm, Fruition, Amnesia among others) provided the Perth scene with predominantly English-influenced Gothic Rock nights and my first introduction to the scene.  These clubs featured music from bands who themselves often did not consider their music Goth, nevertheless the music was (and is) heavily favoured by Traditional (Trad) Goths and played in almost all Goth clubs.

Berlin Club

Berlin Club Flyer c.1992

Industrial music had begun to find commercial success in the early 1990s; frequently featuring Goth-influenced imagery, alternative iconography and dark themes; it was a natural high-energy companion to the comparatively sedate musical approach of Goth.   The flourishing Industrial genre heavily influenced Perth Goth club nights, with setlists often featuring a mixture of Goth/Electro/Industrial and other alternative genres to a lesser degree, with a marked increase in the number of dance-oriented club events being scheduled in the early-mid 1990s.

Geremiahs 10

Desolation at Geremiah’s Nightclub c.1995

The promotional material represents the spectrum of aesthetics within the Goth scene, with Industrial flyers often favouring harsher, mechanised forms and horror themes.  Goth flyers utilise vampire, kitsch-horror and Victorian-influenced imagery to define and promote more traditionally influenced Goth events.  Alongside these are other alternative bands and genres including shoe-gazer and indie sets.  These distinctions demonstrate the stylistic differences in terms of music styles and visual representation as well as  design/iconography within the scene, simultaneously it shows the Goth subculture’s ability to co-exist with compatible music styles and social groups. In 1990s Perth, there was an amicable yet apparent schism between those who principally favoured less energetic rock-based music (the Trad-Goth aesthetics) in comparison to the parallel genre broadly grouped under the moniker Industrial, featuring faster, more electronic dance-oriented music styles, less formal Goth-influenced dress and an emphasis on dancing rather than exclusively focussing on social interaction within the club environment.  Clubs nights at Geremiah’s, The Loft, Interzone and Skin  (among others) catered for those who sought dance-intensive nights primarily featuring Electro Body Music (EBM) and Industrial tracks with strong Goth influences.

Recoil 1

Recoil – The Loft, Post-Detonation c.1995

With music containing mechanical and electronic noises accompanying heavily distorted vocals, the Industrial music genre also generated an occasionally uneasy association with heavy metal and thrash music; genres less congruent with the more flamboyant Goth scene.  This shared patronage, however, helped sustain the subculture and provided financial stability in an otherwise niche market in a geographically isolated city. At times this resulted in uneasiness, when patrons unfamiliar with Goth aesthetics  reacted to the extreme styles of the Goth patrons, sometimes approaching Goths with benign curiosity, sometimes with genuine animosity and attempts to generate confrontation.  While these events were rare, the reliance on nightclub proprietors to provide space for Goth events, in part  prompted future generations of the scene to be more self-managing, establishing dedicated Goth events management and membership-based clubs such as Dominion to better serve the needs of the Goth community.

Interzone - Club Industrial

Interzone 1994

The flyers presented here articulate by example the self-generating and sustaining nature of the Perth Goth and Industrial scene and record a period of high creative activity in the subculture.   The ephemera itself represents examples of subculture specific iconography and thematic preoccupations, and demonstrate the scene’s ability to effectively self-promote and instinctively engage with its participants.[2]

Dominion1

Dominion c. 1998

[1] Perth, Western Australia for basic information about the city see : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perth [2] Not all clubs of the period are represented here, just a sketch of the overall scene.  I will continue to add to this theme in future posts, including excerpts from various street press and other media.

Survey Update – Week One!

Survey Update

To all of you wonderful people who responded to my call for survey participants  – a heartfelt thank you.

I have been genuinely overwhelmed by your positivity, generosity and openness and your intelligent and articulate responses.    Collation and analysis of the data is going to take considerable time.

I am determined to present a thorough, authentic and detailed study of the subculture reflecting on the key themes of the research and hopefully incorporating as many of your contributions as possible.

To everyone who indicated that you are interested in participating in interviews, meetings or contributing through other means, thank you!  I will contact you in the coming weeks to discuss interview options.

Thank you all again.

Emma.

Whitby Spires Through Window Arch

World Goth Day

Happy World Goth Day!

This post is dedicated all those who have invested time, effort, thought and feeling

to improving understanding of the Goth Subculture.

Express your belief in love and tolerance :

Please donate to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation.

 


I have been involved in the Goth scene for more than 25 years.  It is fair to say it is not an incidental part of my life, but a jolly significant one.

Undertaking this research project has required me to reconsider what the subculture – and even the word – really means to me.

How has it informed, shaped and influenced my life?  How do I feel about Goth now that my forties are marching by?  How has my relationship with Goth changed?  How was I labelled Goth in the first place?  For years I skirted around the word, denied it, smirked at it… but really there was no denying it… I had to admit…

I am a Goth 

Once that unpleasantness was behind me, I asked myself – well, why Goth?

It may not look like much to some, but it's ours...

It may not look like much to some, but it’s ours…

To my mind, my musical preferences have never been that extreme, I don’t worship Satan (maybe satin a little), I have never thought of myself as a darkling and negative commentary about dangerous youth cultures seemed unrelated to me.

For me, being involved in the Goth scene has taken many forms over the years:  from pretentious teenager (ok, I can admit it now, the velvet cape in the Australian Summer was too much), to serious art-school student, to Goth-Industrial dance-floor devotee, to incognito manager (yes, Goth to Boss), and back to Trad Goth university researcher waxing lyrical about the Goth subculture.

With this reflection has come the realisation that the very characteristics which prevented me from fitting in to mainstream youth culture and originally propelled me towards Goth when I was young have, over time, become very important to me indeed:   bookishness, scholarly debate, rejection of vacuous and syrupy pop culture, curiosity and acceptance of the slightly weird, rejection of narrow-mindedness …

For me, the experience of being in the Goth scene – participating in Goth events – has always been comfortable and for me that is the core of it.  I enjoy the intimacy of the smaller venues, the familiar faces, indeed even the familiar set lists.  I never cared what people called us, I knew we were having a ball, we loved the fog machines, the (feigned!?!) melancholia, the audacious and poetic clothing with its inferred antiquity and the layers allusion in the music.

So, this year I have chosen to celebrate World Goth Day and be proud.

To everyone celebrating World Goth Day today – however you choose to do it – be proud and have a fabulous day!

Celebrate with me - here, have some bat cake.....

Celebrate with me – here, have some bat cake…..

Thank you for the survey contributions, keep them coming!

 

Goth Subculture Survey


Take the Survey!!!

What better way to celebrate World Goth Day than by taking a survey all about Goth Subculture!!

Follow the links below to take part or contact me directly if you wish:

                   

                   CONTACT WEB MINI Whitby BLUE

Surveys are now closed – Please contact me if you would like to be involved.

Is Goth Just a Phase?

To find out I am conducting research at Curtin University.   You are all welcome to take the surveys, however I am particularly interested in Goth identity in Australia & for those of us over 40.

How did Goth come to be part of your life… Did you think it was just a phase…How would you describe Goth… Is there a strong Goth population where you live???

Thank you for your contributions.

Curtin University Project Number 5251 Approval Number RDHU-17-15

Goth – A Very Visual Subculture

Goth: A Very Visual Subculture

Goth is an unashamedly visual subculture.  The visual impact of Goth identity remains one of the core characteristics which attracted me (and many others) to the scene and which generates curiosity.  Where other subcultures such as Hippies or Skinheads adhere to a social or political ethos, Goth for the most part relies on its spectacular[1] visual representations and aesthetics to express its culture.

Studio3

C.1992

Goth music undoubtedly plays a vital role in the scene, a topic which I will discuss in future posts, however the visual elements of Goth hold significance for subcultural identity in isolation from music, and influence a broader spectrum of mediums independent of musical connections[2].

Moreover, non-Goths are often familiar with the various visual characteristics of Goth without awareness of the nuances within the diverse musical styles and subgenres of the subculture.

For outside observers, the striking appearance of Goth is what sets it out as a subculture in its own right; typified by a visual language reminiscent of the melancholic decadence of the Victorian era, with primarily black clothing accented with lurid hair colour and opulent, heavily ornamented footwear and accessories.  To undertake any discourse on the Goth phenomenon without first reflecting on this very visual nature would be to devalue its primary cultural signifier and give a partially occluded view of the style, design and preoccupations of the subculture.

As a starting point for this research, I have been collating a library of imagery intrinsic to Goth as a point of visual reference and as a catalyst for discussion.  Using the social networking image site Pinterest I have sourced indicative images from all over the world under various categories (boards) to articulate the preoccupations of the scene; some themes are very familiar to me, others are entirely new which in itself is exciting.

www.pinterest.com/just_a_phase/

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