Sunday, July 17, 2011

French Gothic

It struck me whilst on a holiday escape to the rural Lot area of France that it is comparable to the literary notion of the Southern (American) Gothic. Like the American South, France has a vastness of space and a comparative lack of people to occupy it. In addition, people in France tend to sleep in the middle of the day and keep their shutters closed at all times to shut out the heat or cold. When wandering around the landscape, it is easy to come across nobody for miles. Much of the local vista around Montgesty - where I was staying - is unused and untamed and similarly as to parts of the American South, there are withered corn fields and worn out wooden barns. Correspondingly, there are also a large number of small churches, suggesting a high degree of devotional activity - the counterposition between 'communal', collective, conservative conformity and alienation from everyday empathy. It seems that the themes of Southern Gothic fit the landscape of 'French Gothic,' many of which are the labels attached to this post: isolation, terror/fear, a lack of the familiar, the puritanical perspective and the struggle between the rational and the irrational psyches. To me, the best way of thinking about the gothic is to consider the relationship between absense and presence - whether it be the waves of European religious architecture since the 12th century which focus upon arches, expansive ceilings and flying buttresses; or the literature of Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker which consider the horror of supernatural entities; or the more Modern notions of the terror of living in an industrialised yet disparate dream turned nightmare - there is always a fear of what is absent and of how that absence may be filled. The dark holes of the cathedral's arches, the castle's dungeon or the mad professor's attic laboratory or the stretches of land and disused garages and barns on which people relied before they moved to the cities or suburbs - they all carry the emptiness of the unknown. Potentially, there are both beasts and secrets lurking within their spaces. We fill them ourselves with our imaginations.

I took these photos with the Southern Gothic in mind; in particular the title sequences to True Blood. I decided to strip them of colour so I could dress them with shades of grey. They depict a France whose charm is not in being chic but in being bleak.

The final pictures of chateaus, clowns and church windows are not so Southern Gothic but more traditional European Gothic or Horror Gothic. I'm having a Gothicfest.

No comments: