Gothwerk Friday


Fragments on Gothwerk

Maggie Wong

“Oblique life? I am well aware that there is a slight detachment between things, they almost collide, there is a detachment among the beings that lose one another amongst words that almost don’t say anything anymore. But we almost understand each other in this light discord, in this almost that is the only way to stand full life, since a sudden face-to-face encounter with it would frighten us, scare off its delicate spider’s web threads. We are askance in order to not jeopardize what we foresee is infinitely other in this life of which I speak to you.”


 Lispector, Clarice., Stefan. Tobler, and Benjamin. Moser. Água Viva . New York: New Directions, 2012. Print.

What is at stake in looking at the gothic? Why at this moment, in this year, have I led 

us through

To know this, you first have to know where I come from – Anna Whittington. 

My mom was a communist, not a goth.

Maggie Wong, I read your books, mama; just chapter 1 so far, 2020, an excerpt from “On Contradiction” by Mao Tse-Tung.

There were high stakes in her studying the works of Mao Tse-Tung or Frantz Fannon. On one level, her shifts in radical consciousness risked severing connections to her southern family, who she would love to call “wide-eyed moderates.” In her dismantling efforts, she also took risks on an introspective level. Her study required her to separate from the self she formed via white supremacy, and in doing so, she endured an incoherence to her own identity. That incoherence I take as a personal political strategy. It speaks to a radical methodology that to gain authentic self-knowledge, you must undergo a self-annihilation, specifically when one has multiracial relationships while living under the norms that sustain capitalism.  But there is something to gain amidst the confusion. Each piece of marginalia I pull is like a gothic fragment, a small dismemberment floating without a full body. It precedes form and invites change. I feel myself attaching to an experience of identitarian flux in the markings in my mother’s books. Like her, I am on a long road to creating new systems of relation and exchange – and like her, I hope to create shadows of my self. 


 Martinez, Ernesto Javier. Dying to Know: Identity and Self-Knowledge in Baldwin’s Another Country, PMLA , May, 2009, Vol. 124, No. 3 (May, 2009), pp. 782-797.


I have been looking through my mother’s old books. I am reading her reading so that I might find indications of what led her to strip herself of her white southern upbringing and adopt a supporting role in the Asian American identitarian-based Leninist-Maoist group I Wor Kuen in the 1970s. The dismantling of white supremacy for her began inside herself. My mother did not survive cancer long enough to know BLM or hear new spins on the ways white allies can move anti-colonialist and anti-capitalist activism. What she knew was the specter of Jim Crow Mississippi. All her life, it haunted her as an unsolicited accomplice by giving her privileges, such as having access to rigorous education. But it was, in fact, through study that she continually exorcised her ghost. She left me fragments of this work and herself on pages. 

I share my mother with my friends. Through our atemporal Gothwerk conversations, I have learned that counteracting capitalism happens through slowness, through intention, through facing daily mourning of those we lose to state violence or state negligence. Most importantly, I have learned to look into the awe-inspiring abyss of a future where the internalization of oppression splinters off the body into flickering ghosts. 

I see a soft power inside Katherine, Kyle, and Morris’s work, and I want to map that onto a new orientation to my own shadows. That is why I feel held in their work, which permits the ability to love, wait, and honor what has been deemed “other.” It allows time to grieve. It allows me time to peer into oblique life. 

Gothwerk is a project that lives in a cultural and environmental moment of reckoning. The artists involved share practices with an affinity towards the existential and straight-up goth orientation with a libratory flare. I am invested in questioning what constitutes belonging based on the identification of affinity or love in my work. So what does it feel like to have a relationship with ghosts, deep time, or the new wave of baroque goth clubs, virtual realities, latex, and lace? 

We believe that the goth imagination can co-opt fear of losing control and, for some, the fear of the supposed certainty that white supremacy and human supremacy affords. Will the gothic save us? Will goth help us through this period of death and rebirth? Or are we, in fact, past an apocalypse ignited from many intersecting angles, the totality of which we are too slow to recognize on an individual basis? This curatorial investigation has been a shared conversation between divergent artists about the capacities of an orientation to the end of the world. A world that no longer resides in norms of anti-blackness, anti-queerness, and a world where land is treated as kin rather than a commodity. Crucially Gothwerk, as a static and performative project, memorializes the fact that each artist holds a unique social position to “being goth” that reads and reforms a relationship to the accelerated pace of capitalism. 

Kyle’s Playlist history of goth music


September 17th, 2020


34 Videos


First, check the time: (link to Katherine’s page)


Second, practice this exercise:

At this moment sun is highest in the sky. Even if you cannot see it, reach for it with one hand. With the other hand,  reach in the opposite  direction.  Breath into this space that creates a gradient of lightness and darkness. When you are ready move one hand to point to the horizon, keeping your arms in a straight line. Breath into this space and you can feel  the earth’s rotation. 


Now you are in  the movement and moment for exchange. 

   power lines                                                      





for Kyle

IMUV - “Dancing On My Own”


September 17th, 2020


ON Instagram


Reading will be in the form of an IG story send via Hot Wheelz IG. 

From Morris Fox:

I want to consider what it means to be present online and think through digital intimacy conceptually as lovers’ discourse. Specifically, I engage with IMVU an “online metaverse and social game where users create 3D avatars to socialize with people, create environments and rooms, and play games” as a queer platform, and to create poetry video performances using screen capturing of my virtual doubles dancing and hanging out, performances that combine virtual and real “looks”, as a sort of memento mori (or just forget-me-nots and pansies). I want to combine my practice of queer self-dance (queue “Dancing on My Own”), with my simulated dancing, as an entwinement of fantasy and captured movement, perhaps allowing for a form of resistance to death, or the limits of my queer body, disembodied from the sticky materiality of the real. I am interested in the potential to create 3D environments within IMVU that allow for queer mourning and dirge. 

What does it mean to be online and waiting for someone to chat with you? 

“Am I in love? –yes, since I am waiting. The other one never waits. Sometimes I want to play the part of the one who doesn’t wait; I try to busy myself elsewhere, to arrive late; but I always lose at this game. Whatever I do, I find myself there, with nothing to do, punctual, even ahead of time. The lover’s fatal identity is precisely this: I am the one who waits.” 

― Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments

Jackson Margolis’s Scratching the Surface Membrane is a two-volume zine series that covers the life of the artist dealing with chronic pain and isolation over the course of 2019 and 2020. Volume 2 will go up on Thursday, July 7th, so please return to this page to view the complete collection. In these works, Margolis, who has a history with the furry community, speaks to identity politics through fetishism. Scratching underscores a tension between fantasy and the self: each zine is a year-long anthology of honest projections of the artist reimagined as anthropomorphized dragons. By juxtaposing truth and fantasy in this way, Margolis seems to question the very core of how we understand identity and realness. What is more real: how we see ourselves or how others see us? 


Many of the images in Scratching are sketches upcycled from the margins of readings and notebooks, simultaneously capturing Margolis’s artistic process and representing intimate and candid moments of self-expression. Even the title, Scratching the Surface Membrane, touches on the sheer spontaneity of this piece, which can be best described as a non-literal, superficial exploration of thoughts and ideas surrounding identity without an outside perspective. As such, the zines are fundamentally diaristic, chronicling the artist’s evolving sense of self over time. This change, for example, can be traced through the difference in style of the dragons depicted in the two volumes. In Volume 1, the dragons grab at their marshmallowy bodies, emphasizing their plushness and roundness. Although the softness of the dragons remains an important hallmark of Margolis’s style, in Volume 2, one can observe a far greater presence of angular snouts and muscular bodies as well as less pronounced breasts. This transformation in the dragons’ forms serves as a thought record narrating the artist’s own journey starting Hormone Replacement Therapy in 2020. 


However, Scratching is just as much a regression as it is a progression. Driven by nostalgia, sentimentality and comfort, Margolis’s work encourages us to connect with our primal child and hug our inner monsters. In fact, this motif is seen literally through the zines where dragons are often portrayed hugging what can be interpreted as their partners, spirits, or twins. At the same time, while Margolis clearly draws influence from contemporary subcultures and the digital age, the artist’s inspirations can also be traced back to antiquity. In particular, Margolis cites the Paleolitihic Lion Man as one of the earliest instances of people showing that they are capable of imagination. So, anthropomorphism becomes a pure form of fantasy that can be traced throughout human culture and time. For Margolis, though, anthropomorphism is not only a way to connect to broader human history but also to the artist’s own past. Margolis recalls being a hyper-imaginative child, obsessed with drawing fantasy creatures, especially dragons, over and over. Thus, the work of Scratching is at once a moving forward and a revisiting. The temporality of the piece becomes jumbled, asking us to consider how memories and histories shape our presents and futures. Similarly, how does drawing the same image over and over for a year represent both the passing and stopping of time? 


–Afriti Bankwalla, curator 

Pay attention to this space. What do you notice? What assumptions do you make about the person who lives here? Bedrooms are complicated, intimate spaces that mirror ourselves back to us and anyone who sees them. They are where we feel ourselves (and others) the most, where we smell ourselves the most, and where we see ourselves the most. Literally, we see ourselves in our mirrors when getting ready; more abstractly, we do so in the scattered objects that reveal our styles, hobbies, and pasts. How do we root ourselves in our bedrooms and the objects that fill them? More specifically, how do such objects and spaces evoke performances through which our ever-evolving identity is constructed? What are the performances we play out every day, whether there is an audience present or not? In what way is our identity an extension of these performances? 


The artists featured in In My Room approach these questions with works that attempt to track personal growth and changing identities over time. Scratching the Surface Membrane by Jackson Margolis is the artist’s exploration of the self through anthropomorphic dragons; it features two year’s worth of sketches that juxtapose themes of nostalgia and evolution. In ted bourget’s virtual world, Some Sludge, the audience can roam freely through bourget’s life in Chicago over the course of four seasons. Time flows abstractly in this world, as players swim in Lake Michigan, wait for the bus, and walk through UChicago’s quad with bourget. aza’s art film, Chemtrails, presents a collage of photographic bursts from the artist’s private life as a way of playing with the strange and illicit disruption of time that occurs when one stops to look, assess, and take a selfie. Through their own whimsical variations on self-portraiture, bourget, aza, and Margolis address the difficulty of capturing something as in-flux as our perceptions of ourselves. They surrender linearity and narrativity in favor of an understanding of the past, present, and future as something more circular and connected.  


Each art object in this exhibit also represents a unique understanding of performance and liveness, and by placing them together, In My Room hopes to underscore and bring light to the performances we encounter every day that shape our lives and selves. In her theoretical text Queer Phenomenology, scholar Sara Ahmed posits the social as an arrangement of space. She explains that, even in a dark, hitherto-unexplored room, we find our way due to a basic familiarity with how the social is arranged. We know a room must have walls and a door, so we reach our hand out and feel along the door until we find what feels familiar to us as a doorknob. Ahmed uses this understanding of the social as spatial to riff on the idea of queer identity as an orientation. In what way is our identity a result of the way we are oriented in space and the objects and people towards which we are oriented? 


As you proceed through the exhibit, consider the way you move, consider your activity and engagement with each room. As you click through the pages of Scratching the Surface Membrane, allow yourself to think about the interactivity of flipping through a book. As you explore Some Sludge, think about the ephemerality of playing a video game. Can you ever exactly recreate that experience? As you watch Chemtrails, think about the small spectacle of the film format and of taking a selfie or going out to a club.


Please stay tuned throughout the week, as new content will be added regularly. 


Enormous thank you to Hot Wheelz Festival as well as Jill, Lauren, Jackie, ted, and aza. 


–Afriti Bankwalla, curator 

Jackson Margolis is an interdisciplinary artist who holds a BFA in Drawing from the Pratt Institute and is currently an artist in residence in “parents’ basement”. Jackson’s art is Identity-based work, concerned with themes of tenderness, comfort, regression, fantasy and the apocalypse. Particularly fascinated with American subcultures, Jackson makes use of fetish aesthetics to call attention to online spaces. Depicting what are most easily described as dragons, Jackson’s art asks audiences to connect with their primal child self and hug their inner monsters. Underscored in all of Jackson’s art is a desperate search for energy through color and material. Jackson is currently working on a new project that will deal directly with new-age world hurt, regression during the internet age, and the rabbit hole of the psyche.  


Insta: @lamesaltcrystal