Watching this interview with Alan Moore: https://youtu.be/RpajFQECzAk?t=8m10s
During the interview, Moore discusses Gothic horror tradition. He describes it as an “enormous vertical weight in time, placed on the fragile present” with a looming event coming home to roost. (I’m reminded of symbolism using crows). That explains it all so well.
I’ve heard about Gothic things many times before, but nobody has ever tried to explain what makes a Gothic thing Gothic. At least, not the historical Gothic. I think that’s because of this detestable subculture we have called “goths”. (The fact that Visigoths existed doesn’t help with definitions, either). The modern “goths”, in their pre-adolescent obsession with themselves, have obscured a modern day human’s understanding of Gothic art and its sensibilities. Gothic art is not about the color black, pain, and suffering. That is teenage angst. The true Gothic mode is not so pedestrian, it lifts our eyes up and confronts us with the mortality flooding our universe. It’s an incredible moment in human history and that’s why “goths” suck. In my mind, the Cathedrals are the European equivalent of the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids.
Before I visied Dom Koelner in 2015, I’d heard of Gothic architecture many times before, but it never made sense to me. It seemed like it was about spires piercing the air. The Gothic architecture style was piercing, but not angular. It preferred curves, but the curves were not comforting and round — they were instead a deviation from rectilinearity. So I knew what Gothic looked like, and had an idea of what it made one feel, but there was something about it I did not understand. I knew the Gothic motif, but it felt like there was a Gothic moral missing.
In my time I had also felt the presence of the Gothic mode in movies. It is quite at home in unsettling space films like Event Horizon (whose title I always forget). Interstellar also utilizes the Gothic mode, which is why Hans Zimmer’s expansive score makes use of the most ethereal instrument available to man: the organ. Space is impossibly enormous and unforgiving. Lovecraft’s Cthulu, fear incarnate, is from space. A very Gothic thing, space.
Every moment I spent in the presence of Dom Koelner (just Dom Koelner, when I was with other humans I felt normal and mundane), I could a feel a slow rumbling chorus in my ears reminiscent of Koyaanisqatsi . Listen.
The ancient European cathedrals feel otherworldly. They tower over you — very much like a skyscraper. But skyscrapers feel so different: utilitarian, proud, guarded. A safe and mundane place. A cathedral confronts one’s self with their mortality, creating vulnerability and hopefully peace. When one stands at the base of a cathedral and looks up at its bristling spires, one can see the sky move while the intransigent and implacable structure of the cathedral remains fixed in space and time. It is slightly hallucinogenic to look up at them like so. When these cathedrals were constructed, I imagine the Europeans communing with a presence in the universe that modern day humans can no longer feel or reach. Perhaps I imagine that because the motivations these medieval Europeans must have had are utterly opaque to me, a 21st century American. Perhaps I imagine that because of Randall Carlson’s interview on Joe Rogan’s show. The cathedrals were constructed over centuries, many of them remain unfinished. Generations of men worked on them, sometimes falling to their death.
Going back to Moore’s description of the Gothic mode, I can now confidently use the word Gothic in conversation. When he speaks of Gothic being an “enormous vertical weight in time, placed on the fragile present” with a looming event coming home to roost, there is an undoubted sense of overwhelm blanketed with grim and inexorable mortality. The cathedrals are sky-piercing and unyielding monoliths, space is impossibly enormous and unforgiving to our biology. That is Gothic.