imomus (imomus) wrote,

Through the looking glass

Doll Dress last night (the Gothic Lolita club in Osaka where I played my first concert of 2006, previewing lots of new material) turned out to be rather extraordinary. A dedicated group of devotees had turned a bar, clothes and antiques shop into a sort of cosplay den where the Mad Hatter's tea party from "Alice In Wonderland" was replayed around a table heaving with strawberries and cakes. Performers (me and a band called Harukiya, who combined their intriguing music for deranged dormice with a blindfold tea tasting test) were totally upstaged by the audience, who posed in crinoline Victoriana for the photographer loungeing on a sofa, their postures increasingly erotic. (I'm told these sessions often end in nudity, which seems like a strange and yet apt development for people who invest so much in dressing up.)

Perverse eroticism was also the theme of two excellent films directed by Gabriel "Coco" Fumitsuki, who likes Rothmans Royals, Vivienne Westwood, Shiina Ringo, Bjork and YMO, Bach, Satie, Faure and Ravel (not exactly Goth tastes), and entitles portfolios of teenage girls on her website "pedophilia". (It isn't: all the girls are over 17.) In the first film a Japanese Alice plays chess with a boy dressed up as a schoolgirl, but ends up lying dead on the grass with blood trickling from her mouth (the Cheshire Cat walks away callously). In the second, a kimono girl with bobbed hair is tied up then stabbed in the tummy by another girl. Instead of dying, though, she dribbles clear fluid from her mouth into the other girl's mouth. The ambience is one of aestheticized, eroticized menace, the kind often encountered in the world of Hajime Sawatari, Kuniyoshi Kaneko, Yotsuya Simon, and Hiroko Igeta (who made the Hans Bellmer-esque doll in the photo above).

The MC, in Beijing Opera make-up and a vast yellow afro wig, was an awesome baroque Venetian figure. Coco, the film director, carried an air of powerfully erotic self-sufficiency wherever she went. A photographer in a tiny top hat and zigzag skirt looked amazing. Her partner, in bondage gear, didn't. The men, just like the performers, were upstaged at Doll Dress. Many of them were dressed as women, but looked like second-rate drag queens or Visual-Kei stars. Sure, both genders were faking it, flouncing around like precocious, spoilt Victorian children, but the women were faking it better. In a sharp reversal of the rules of the world outside, at Doll Dress testosterone made you a loser and oestrogen a winner. Through the looking glass indeed.

I'm still pondering what this style means. Obviously I've dabbled in it (I wrote a song about Kaneko, for instance) myself. Friends like Reika and lord_whimsy seem to understand its impulses too. Is there some connection with the Aristasians? And if so, what does their link with white supremacy mean? And Mishima, never far from proceedings like this, wasn't he a fascist? And David Bowie...

Perhaps closer to these troubling things than it is to Goth style, Gothic Lolita seems to embrace flamboyance and a kind of florid formality as the pinnacle of civilisation. A poisonous, erotic sensuality replaces Goth's death cult. Instead of despair there's an elegant inhibition. And of course Alice, lost in a very Freudian wonderland.

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