health goth is the latest trend to be spat out by the internet, so what’s the deal?
Health Goth is following Normcore, Sea Punk and Vaporwave in going mainstream, i-D investigates the latest web subculture to make it out of the web and onto the streets.
Up until very recently, Health Goth was just a Facebook page set up over a year ago by three friends from Portland: video artist Chris Cantino, and Magic Fades bandmates Mike Grabarek and Jeremy Scott (N.B not the designer). Every day the guys would post a series of images featuring black and white sportswear, net art, bionic limbs, heavily branded sports ads, mermaids in full on black latex, and the whole of the cast from I, Robot.
Soon the page had become visual porn for the kind of person that is really into sportswear but whose favourite colour is black, the kind of person that likes to remain in the subcultural shadows but then who is also heavily into commercial brands and consumer culture, the kind of person Alexander Wang had in mind when he designed his latest collection for H&M, the kind Nasir Mazhar is mates with and the kind Rick Owens would 100% want to party with.But after a few misguided trend reports in mainstream magazines, touting the likes of Kylie Jenner and Jessie J as the latest Health Goth celebrity pioneers, and a guy named Johnny Love AKA Deathface setting up a rival webpage selling HG t-shirts, Health Goth found itself amid accusations of selling out. However, after speaking with Chris, Mike and Jeremy, we found this couldn't be further from the truth.
Beyond the obvious what actually is Health Goth and when did you first get into it?
It's a combination of things we're interested in like sportswear, fetishisation of clothing and cleanliness, body enhancement technology, rendered environments, and dystopian advertisements. The original idea came from some edits where I was adding these darker elements to CGI renderings of gyms. It was around July of 2013, when I started joking with friends and sharing posts with no intention of it evolving into what it is now.
What's the significance behind bringing together subcultural styles like goth and cyber punk and the mainstream world of sport?
It has to do with our history of net art obsession and fascination with the rise of trans-humanism. We want to create art that references evolution and relate it back to subcultures, things like bio-enhancement technology, anti-aging medication, and how it all feeds into this ideal of "pursuing perfection". We embrace a lot of these futuristic fantasies but ultimately we all have our own fears and doubts about it. So we like to blur the edges between things that are transcendental and taboo just enough that it begs a discussion.
Were you always into goth?
We've never really been into just one thing. We love goths and things about being goth, but not everything about it. None of us are purists about anything, and none of us have any interest in being retro at all.
What is it about the darker side of sport ads that fascinates you?
It's not necessarily that it fascinates us, but it was a starting point in some ways, being that we were seeing things in these ads that the company and others weren't recognizing. There's a lot to take inspiration from, trying to accentuate something that was understated by putting it in a different context.
Where did your interest in sport/healthy lifestyle come from?
For us, it's more about full mind and body health than it is about sport. We want to encourage people to own the freakish parts of yourself that are typically suppressed. We're also very interested in ultra-clean rendered environments, self-esteem, and general happiness. Whether you get that from exercise or some twisted fetish you have, so be it.
What's the relationship between you version of Health Goth and Johnny Deathface's 10 commandments?
Yeah, we have nothing to do with his site. He has said he did it just to piss us "nerds" off, but clearly he's attention-starved and trying to make a quick buck selling shitty t-shirts. But no, we do not agree with any "commandments" and his representation of it is about as far off-base as you could get.
Is there a Health Goth community or place outside the web where it can congregate?
I mean there are countless people that exist out there sharing some of the same outlook, but they might not identify as or appear to be "health goth". There are clubs in London, New York, LA, or here in Portland, where you'll find people that are incorporating it into their personal style. But it's all indebted to designers and streetwear movements that came before us so a lot of the fashion elements are really recognizable to people who have been following certain trends in music or net art. I don't think any of these people would straight up say "I'm health goth", I certainly wouldn't. We reject the idea that it's a lifestyle choice, it's an aesthetic and you're welcome to pick and choose whatever bits inspire you.
Is there a particular Health Goth sound?
We haven't paired it much with specific sounds, because we've seen other aesthetics become less relevant when the music stopped progressing alongside it. There is a dystopian club sound though associated with labels like Liminal Sounds, PAN, Her Records, etc. and artists like Drippin, Dj New Jersey Drone, Sudanim, M.E.S.H., and others.
Have movements like Seapunk and other internet art affected your overall aesthetic
Absolutely. We are friends with many founders and leaders of movements like Vaporwave and Seapunk, and have been talking to them all along. We're obviously indebted to the context they worked in, and we are obsessive supporters of artists like Kim Laughton, Gerg?' Kovács and Chris Isbert at the Aesthetics groups, Jan-Peter Gieseking, etc. We are completely dumbfounded and inspired by their work.
You spoke about accelerationism in a pervious interview, how would you explain your belief in it and how does it relate to Health Goth?
Accelerationist aesthetics are really about how subcultures can develop in our "capitalist" society while acting destructively towards it by appropriating the visual elements used to perpetuate it. Occasionally people think we are trying to advertise brands on the page, but it's an inherent part of the medium we work with.
What do you hope to achieve with Health Goth as a movement?
We aren't trying to achieve anything. We want to keep posting images that are relevant to us and be mindful of what we are doing.
How would you feel about Health Goth going mainstream and what would you say to your critics if it did?
Well, we think a lot of the elements the community identifies with are already mainstream, even if they are towards the fringe. They're connecting with bits and pieces of it that are already parts of their personality, lifestyle, or artistic interests. But if it's a question of "selling out" or not, you can be sure there won't be any clothing, events, or advertisements that are specifically branded "Health Goth" and marketed to people (except of course the clothing Johnny is selling without our blessing). That would be as absurd as an official Seapunk or Normcore campaign; it would obviously self-destruct. We're artists and aesthetic junkies ourselves, any work we're hired to do as creatives or designers is a personal venture and doesn't speak for the thousands of people that embrace the movement and have made it their own. We have too much love for them to deliberately commodify and alienate them like that.
Text Tish Weinstock
Photography Barbara Anastacio