The COLOR CODEX series — to which SEMIOVOX has invited our semiotician colleagues from around the world to contribute — explores the unexpected associations evoked for each of us by specific colors found in the material world.
I first encountered goth purple on Prince’s Purple Rain album (1984). I begged my aunt to buy it for me since my parents didn’t understand how much I needed it. While I wouldn’t classify the funk and pop-inspired Prince as goth, the purple aesthetic of that album (and the iconic ruffles and brocades that marked this era of Princedom) referenced the soft androgyny of glam rock and ornate formality of post-punk goth. The overall look and feel of this identity created a nexus of sex and otherness that felt transgressive and compelling. I played that album so much I wore the edges of its cover to pieces.
While Goth Purple isn’t necessarily about the particular shade as much as the emotional complexity, I imagine it to be the color of an aging bruise, implying violence and vulnerability. It takes me to a place of few limits or self- denial, a place of downright opulent sensuality, a place of the good, the bad, and the deliciously ugly.
It makes sense that this color would resonate with me, since I spent a significant amount of time reading Poe and Hawthorne, and like these Romantic authors, goth purple celebrates the joys of darkness and our proximity to the sepulcher. Its magical, witchy allure is self-conscious, and a little silly, but there’s a frisson of pleasure in referencing the mystery and eroticism of death, the ultimate human vulnerability. Goth purple looks good, for example, paired with a set of vampire teeth.
To me, the color feels “evergreen,” in that it’s never left the repertoire of goth, Industrial and EDM subcultures I encounter, morphing here and there, but still present in the inevitably daring bustier or corset, and the wedding/mourning dress/funeral gown edged with black lace. Its intensity claims the place of honor as a statement color. As with Prince, or even Willie Wonka, for that matter, donning the deep purple feels like a cry of exceptionalism, artistic individuality, and self-expression at its finest.
Case in point, the most recent iteration of goth purple I’ve seen has been hair color. Though the mad hair color play of a few years ago has passed back into more standard flirtations with pink and blue, goth purple makes an occasional appearance, asserting its dominance by the sheer boldness of choice. A friend with wild white-grey curls recently dyed her hair deep purple. She claimed she didn’t realize it’d be so dark. I thought it was magnificent.
COLOR CODEX: Martha Arango (Sweden) on FALUKORV RED | Audrey Bartis (France) on KYOTO MOSS | Maciej Biedziński (Poland) on SKIN-DEEP ORANGE | Natasha Delliston (England) on MARRAKECH MINT | Whitney Dunlap-Fowler (USA) on RESURRECTION CANARY BLUE | Josh Glenn (USA) on TOLKIEN GREEN | Aiyana Gunjan (India) on LETTERBOX RED | Sarah Johnson (Canada) on ARMY GREEN | Lucia Laurent-Neva (England) on TEAL BLUE VOYAGER | Rachel Lawes (England) on DEVIL GREEN | Charles Leech (Canada) on STORMTROOPER WHITE | William Liu (China) on PINING GREEN | Ramona Lyons (USA) on GOTH PURPLE | Sónia Marques (Portugal) on RUNAWAY BURRO | Max Matus (Mexico) on CALIFORNIAN BLUE | Chirag Mediratta (Canada / India) on AUROVILLE ORANGE | Clio Meurer (France) on PARIS LUMINOUS GREY | Serdar Patkin (Turkey / England) on AMBIENT AMBER | Maria Papanthymou (Russia / Greece) on AGALMATOLITE WHITE | Vijay Parthasarathy (USA) on ALPHONSO YELLOW | Greg Rowland (England) on LAUNDROMAT FUTURA | Tim Spencer (England) on ELECTRO-EROTIC COBALT | Ximena Tobi (Argentina) on VILLA MISERIA BRICK | Alfredo Troncoso (Mexico) on BORGES GLAUQUE.