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Goth, designing Darkness was compiled by curator Timo de Rijk and cultural historian Eric Smulders, after image with quotes edit and design by Yvo Zijlstra. It is a visual exploration of the themes of the exhibition GOTH – Designing Darkness in which the works from the exhibition are supplemented with contemporary and historical imagery from popular culture, art history and journalism. The book tells the story of goth through a tantalizing combination of images and quotes never before brought together in this context.

256 pages full colour in softcover / size 21 x 28 cm  / ISBN: 978-90-8321-0100 / Publisher: Design Museum Den Bosch / € 24,95
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Authors: Timo de Rijk, Eric Smulders
Image research, compilation, design and lithography: Yvo Zijlstra, Antenna-Men, Rotterdam
Production and final editing: Reint Boven, Design Museum Den Bosch
Translation: Ted Alkins, West Kirby, UK / Printing: Grafistar
If you only knew how strange it is to be there. It is a world without sound, without colour. Everything there — the earth, the trees, the people, the water and the air — is dipped in monotonous grey. Grey rays of the sun across the grey sky, grey eyes in grey faces, and the leaves of the trees are ashen grey. It is not life but its shadow. It is not motion but its soundless spectre.

Part of a famous first impression of witnessing motion pictures by the Russian writer Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) after attending a Lumière film show on 30 June or 1 July 1896.
Medieval Gothic architecture was rediscovered in the nineteenth century after long years of obscurity and contempt, during which its buildings fell into decay. It was precisely in this era of nascent modernization, individualization and alienation that the Middle Ages came to be admired for their mystical, total art with its moral championing of an ideal of close-knit community. Interest in the Gothic was cultivated as an antidote to Enlightenment notions of progress, clarity and globalization, as crystallized in the ceaseless drive to progress.
Our society is one in which reason and rationality seem to shape all our thinking and decisions. The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, brought us all manner of good and exciting things. But it also spawned a world organized along increasingly rigid lines of technical development and economic gain.
In the late eighteenth century, this ‘disenchantment’ of the world triggered a reaction. A counter-movement and an antidote to society’s ever-more controlling rationality, economic efficiency and supposedly objective technologization.
A need arose for darkness, for a world of mystical, spectral and shadowy moments, images, places and activities. This reaction was inextricably linked to the modern world and even a necessary part of it. It complemented human existence in the way night defines day. All that the Enlightenment had declared surplus to requirements was brought back within a parallel, even unconscious dimension and used to recreate an enchanted, mystical world. Goth has been with us ever since.
Goth seems obsessed with anything abnormal: the ultimate obsession being something that is at once wholly normal and familiar yet also utterly abnormal and strange, namely death. Hence all the living dead, undead and revenants you find in Gothic movies and stories.
Goth can be several things at once – an almost literally hydra-headed monster. As an attitude to life, it can offer identity and a handhold in a complex, rapidly changing and hostile world. It can be a haven for anyone wishing to escape the turmoil, worries and problems of daily life.
In the gothic tradition of Nature as hostile Other, the eco-Gothic has recently emerged. It’s the climate crisis in gothic terms. An environmental disaster of Frankenstein-like proportions. The vengeful nature, a spiteful earth even, which turns inexorably against humanity.
They’re invented artefacts, somewhere between a stage magician’s gear, movie props and modern art. The French philosopher Baudrillard used the term ‘hyper-real’ for references that have no ‘originals’ but where it is suggested that such did exist.
Modern technology evoked similar emotions in the twentieth century. Power stations and electricity pylons are haunted by invisible, malevolent radiation.
Vampires are the most glamorous of Gothic figures! And the most seductive too, with their steamy undertone of eroticism and death. The male Gothic stereotype is the aristocratic lady-killer and the female the man-eating femme fatale. Both types are irresistibly attractive, but can destroy you, just as a vampire can.
But the Gothic heroine isn’t always a helpless, fainting creature who needs to be rescued: there’s also a feminist line running through Gothic literature, with strong, seductive women.
Goth is inextricably linked with modernization. It is not so much the antithesis of progress as its dark side: a stage on which modern fears and tensions can be acted out. Because modernity demands that we ‘keep up’: to the modernist, the past is over and done with.
256 pages full colour in softcover / size 21 x 28 cm  / ISBN: 978-90-8321-0100 / Publisher: Design Museum Den Bosch / € 24,95
order the book