Leaving our Marks: Interiors, Exteriors, and Bodies

In the late 1990’s into the early 2000’s there was a magazine called Nest: A Quarterly of Interiors.  It’s one of the few magazines from when I subscribed to magazines that I have kept the issues, and even purchased some back issues.  What has stuck with me about the magazine is that it wasn’t a showcase, rather it featured articles about the interiors of peoples actual homes as they lived in them.  Often the homes were of artists or authors, though I also remember an issue that featured the interior of the apartment of a stock broker or analyst who worked on Wall Street, and an issue that featured a home made out of milk crates by someone who was otherwise “homeless”.  The articles that accompanied the photos of these interiors were always reflective and philosophical. Each issue was organised around a theme.  The point of Nest was that we leave our trace, our mark, upon the world and attention to the interiors of our homes gives us a glimpse into our interiors (souls/selves).

We are in need of such witness to the relation between what we now call our spirituality and our physicality and the spaces we inhabit.

I grew up among Lutheran Pietists. We affirmed the Resurrection and the body, to a point, the focus of our embodiment was song and music, we had (to borrow a term from the Anglobaptist) a sonic theology.  But too much attention to clothing, the interior of our houses, or the visual arts was discouraged.  This wasn’t so much a denial of the body as a fear of mere ornamentation.  We could spend time focused on singing and playing instruments, and the beauty of the sounds these physical things made but to pay attention to my own appearance, to decorate the house, to meditate upon a painting wasn’t a priority.  Physical beauty for decoration was superfluous and secondary to natural beauty (sunsets, flowers, the well tilled earth, the night sky, the unadorned body, etc.).

I was more visual, I preferred painting and drawing to singing and playing music, I was concerned with fashion, to the puzzlement and bemusement of my mother.  Though she also appreciated that I could tell her if a certain blouse or skirt would go with an existing item in her wardrobe when shopping for clothes.

In a foriegn country staring at myself in the mirror after letting my beard and hair grow out, I realized I could communicate who I was and wanted to be through my appearance.  Not that I thought all would always interpret these signs as I intended (but that’s the way of things Cf. AKMA on interpretation).  This awareness was also the solidifying of my growing goth identity.  It was also for me a theological affirmation: Resurrection had to mean that my physicality had meaning and primary importance.  My appearance wasn’t simply frivolity and decoration but a primary act of meaning and communication.

When my wife and I got engaged we made a pact against the purely utilitarian in our clothing and household items: what we wore and the objects of our interior needed to be beautiful and meaningful as well as useful.

As a regular feature of Gothic musings I’m starting a series on the beauty meaning and self expression of our habitations, clothing, interiors, and architecture.  I invite you to think with me about the meaning and beauty of our habitation: whether in simplicity or extravagance, with meager or abundant means. I have some people I’d like to see what their interior and fashion are like and to hear them reflect on the interiors of their homes and their fashion choices.  I also invite you to leave a comment here or contact me if you’d like to share photos and/or an essay on your physical habitation and its meaning.

These will be found in Gothic Musings because the goth aesthetic is, in part at least, about giving a particular expression of an identity and outlook through dress and decor.  Though,  this theme cuts across all aspects of priestly goth, whether ecclesiology, spiritual direction, or iconography, it all is about the meaning of embodiment and beauty as an outworking of the doctrines of the incarnation and resurrection.

In the next few days, I will post photos of the interior of the Community of the Holy Trinity with some thoughts on what the common spaces of the community say about myself and the community and the other members of the community.

And to wet your appetite here are some photos of my self presentation in the world:

(Click on the photos to see a slide show and see the comments on each photo)


The Circus Is Eternal: Fashion Liturgy

Kate Setzer Kamphausen’s  fashion Show “The Circus is Eternal” Friday night (March 2) at Nocturna was a great time.  Kate’s garments looked amazing on each of the models (who weren’t professional models, but various people for the goth scene).   The preparation was a little halting as neither Kate nor I had produced a fashion show before.  Things though all went relatively smoothly.

In the midst of the show as I was running the projections and directing the models out on stage (so that they came out with the appropriate projected title), the thought came to me that Kate had created a liturgy of the Circus.  The combined elements of the show – the garments were  inspired by the Circus, and our instructions to the models that they should be aware of themselves and their bodies in their garments, which were not circus costumes, were evocative of the circus.  The models were performing and making present the Circus without re-enacting a particular circus(real or imaginary).

Kate designed each garment for particular people she knew of differing body types and designing each “type” of circus performer based on her acquaintance with each model.   In part it was here conception of who fit what role that evoked and invoked the presence of the circus.  Each model and the models together (Kate had them remain on stage or in front of the stage but visible to the audience) embodied  these “types” of the circus. In this way she presented what endures through time or transcends time and place and particularity of the circus.    Her title then stated truly she was articulating what is enduring  and human about the circus, as well as do so in a way consistent with the archetypes of the Goth scene.   In other words “The Circus is Eternal” was a Goth liturgy of the circus.

The liturgies both of the ancient pagan world and of the Christian Church, were spectacles intended to draw people into a particular reality that transcended time and place and yet also would connect with the people and their archetypes.  These liturgies represented the eternal and transcendent types and realities, in ways also recognizable to a particular place and time, but not to articulate the values of the place and time, but to draw those in a particular place and time into something beyond a moment.  These spectacles initiate us into a transcendent moment and its archetypes, and it makes these moments and archetypes present for us.  Or it brings us into the presence of these things that are beyond and yet infuse our daily life.

“The Circus  is Eternal” did this as each model in Kate’s designs invoked and presented to us the various archetypes of the Circus: Janitor, Lion and Lion Tamer, Tightrope Walker, Fire Dancer, Ringmaster, and Dervish.   The show built as each model came out showcasing their garment and in keeping all the models on stage it created the fullness of the circus and its spectacle and controlled chaos as all the models joined in the Dervish’s dance.   We found ourselves in the presence of the Circus, without a circus being present, but its eternal moment its archetypes drew us into the reality and archetypes of the circus, as the music (archetypal yet industrial circus music) also drew us into the world of the circus through sound.  All the elements came together so that we were all, for 6 minutes, at the circus, through this fashion liturgy.

(You may find images here at Kate Setzer Kamphausen’s website.)