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.

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. 

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 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.