Last week, the New York Times ran a trend piece called "Health Goth: Where Darkness and Gym Rats Meet." Almost immediately, the Health Goth Facebook page, which was started by three Portland-based artists, and is widely credited with defining and popularizing the movement, posted a link to the article and a reaction:
"If the first image isn't enough 2 deter you from reading this awful article, the fact that they interviewed us for an hour and then barely used anything we said and instead wrote a bunch of complete shit will"
"Health Goth" definitely has traction, but its various underlying message is clearly muddled by a superficial take on the idea, as evidenced by the words that the original Health Goths made public. Instead of attempting to tease out what the New York Times missed, we contacted the trio behind the page to hear what they had to say.
What was your immediate reaction to the New York Times writing a trend piece on Health Goth?
The first reaction was, "Why did they even bother interviewing us?" This story is complete shit and as off-point as you can be.
What was the most egregious error in the article?
The New York Times completely missed the point about aesthetics, futurism, wellness, and all the things that make our art challenging and interesting. The writer actually expressed a clear understanding of all these things when we spoke, but instead opted to completely dumb it down into click-bait for people who would rather read about start-ups in Brooklyn than dig into an abstract community of artists. Health Goth isn't about working out, EBM, partying all night, or selling a fucking brand.
The fact that they even interviewed Deathface is pathetic. He has nothing to do with the real community of Health Goth. As soon as we started getting attention for it, he tried to take it for himself, and when we called him out, he messaged us saying he was going to steal the name and make it look like we were the ones copying him. Then he started making violent threats towards us, something he has a history of following through with towards other artists. He's just an opportunist trying to make a quick buck selling T-shirts under a banner he had nothing to do with; a sad, violent troll. He should have just come up with his own name for whatever he's doing, but he actually gets off on this stuff.
Just for context and being straight up about it with no filter, what is Health Goth?
Health Goth, if you can even define something that changes regularly, is a hybrid of aesthetics we're plugged into, including elements of biotechnology, sportswear, fetish culture, extreme cleanliness, dystopian advertisements, and rendered environments.
There's that side, the artistic side, and then you have the actual community that engages with it. We've been participating in the net art movement for years, and the ability to share and have discussions about the art with thousands of people at the click of a button is at least as interesting as the imagery itself. We're also followers of the transhumanist movement, so a lot of what we do references evolution and relates it back to these subcultures. It's pretty fantastical when it comes down to it, and some may find that too strange or taboo, but we prefer that blurry, uncomfortable space over the conventional and twee bullshit you see everywhere.
What facts or message do you want people to hear and understand when it comes to what comprises this art and movement?
Health Goth is not a lifestyle, it's an exercise in aesthetics. Any publication trying to tell you Health Goth is about working out has simply taken the two words at face value and opted for a less challenging, and extremely boring alternative.
Honestly, we will get more excited about people that share their art with us, or tell us we've inspired software they're creating. We're just out here creating imagery that combines all these fringe elements that beg discussion, and giving all the freaks a place to celebrate them. Of course there are going to be people that won't identify with it. The themes can be very abstract, and the iconography evolves rapidly. It's a response to culture in which the majority of people are media-obsessed, striving for a perfection that doesn't exist, and escapism into a future where those lines are broken down or at least blurred.
What measures or actions can and will you take to ensure that this message isn't lost or misconstrued by things like this New York Times article?
Just being more careful about asking what the direction of the piece is, what types of images they are using, and how they are going to spin the piece. We assumed that since it's a huge newspaper that they would hold themselves to a higher standard. Since we don't have an agenda and our message is just about curating an aesthetic, all we can do is keep on our creative grind.
What positives, if any, have come from this mainstream attention? Do you have any hopes that might come to fruition now that platforms as diverse as the New York Times and Complex are increasing awareness of Health Goth?
One huge positive is that we've connected with so many great artists and professionals as a result, and those people have encouraged us to develop the aesthetic and take things to a place we couldn't have gotten on our own. Our only real hopes are to keep creating at a high level--we would just stop if this wasn't inspiring to us anymore, we aren't in it to turn a buck. Of course, I don't think any of the huge sportswear companies would have hit us up if not for all the press, but our goal is not to sell out the idea and name, like we said it's about developing and appreciating aesthetics.