The goth culture is a subculture that has been around for decades and has gone through numerous interpretations and iterations in different countries around the world. It is characterized by a dark and often melancholic aesthetic, and is often associated with music and fashion.

This essay will explore the beginnings of goth culture in the UK, focusing on the influence of the band Depeche Mode and the gothic culture in the former GDR.

The goth culture in the UK has its roots in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when punk and post-punk bands such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division and Bauhaus were popular. This period was characterized by a dark, moody aesthetic and an exploration of themes such as death, despair, and alienation. It was during this time that Depeche Mode, a British electronic music band, began to gain popularity with their dark, synth-driven sound. The band’s influence on goth culture has been documented by many scholars and music journalists.

Depeche Mode’s influence on goth culture was particularly strong in the former GDR (East Germany). The band’s music was highly influential on the goth scene in the GDR, which was burgeoning during the late 1980s and early 1990s. As Sascha Lange, a musician and journalist who was active in the goth scene in the former GDR, explains: “Depeche Mode had a huge impact on the goth scene in the GDR. We had a big underground music scene, and Depeche Mode was an important part of it.” Lange also explains that the goth scene in the former GDR was heavily influenced by the aesthetics of the UK goth scene. He states: “The goth scene in the GDR was heavily influenced by the UK goth scene. We were inspired by the music, fashion and aesthetic of the UK goth scene and adapted it to our own needs and tastes.” This is evidenced by the fact that goth clubs in the former GDR often featured bands such as Depeche Mode, as well as other British bands such as Bauhaus and The Cure.

The influence of the UK goth scene in the former GDR also extended to other aspects of culture. For example, the goth culture in the former GDR was heavily influenced by British literature and art. As Lange explains: “We were also inspired by British literature and art. We were exposed to the works of authors such as Oscar Wilde, William Blake and the Pre-Raphaelites, and these works had a strong influence on our aesthetic.” This influence is evident in the artwork and fashion of goth culture in the former GDR, which featured dark, romantic and often surrealistic imagery. The influence of the UK goth scene in the former GDR was also evident in the music of the time. As Lange explains: “The music of the GDR goth scene was heavily influenced by the music of the UK goth scene. We listened to bands such as Depeche Mode, Bauhaus, The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees, and we also had our own bands that played a similar style of music.” This influence is evident in the music of bands such as Tumult, a German gothic rock band that was active in the GDR in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In conclusion, the UK goth scene had a strong influence on the development of goth culture in the former GDR. The music of Depeche Mode and other British bands was highly influential, as were the aesthetics and literature of the UK goth scene, that were starting point for a process of longing and crying. This influence is evident in the artwork, fashion and music of the goth scene in the former GDR. The goth culture in the former GDR was a unique and underground culture, and its influence continues to be felt in goth culture around the world.




EAST GERMAN GOTHIC STUDIES is a study of gothic culture, which in East Germany was characterised above all by severe economic deprivation, limited access to information, music carriers and political and social repression. From 1987 onwards, there are increasing notes in Stasi files on self-organised youth groups who put on make-up, toupee their hair, wear necklaces and have a fascination for cemeteries. Politically, they remained misunderstood by state security personnel, which increased the sceptical observation of this youth culture. This is a continuation of my work on the longing and crying of goths in the GDR.

First, I would like to present a work that was part of the group show UNMONUMENTAL MOMENTS at the Jena Kunstverein, 2022:

Fabian Reetz
Untitled (East German Gothic Studies), 2022
Archival material, weathered latex on glass, steel, 86.5 x 40 x 20 cm

The installation by Fabian Reetz consists of two rectangular steel bodies, whose fronts are each closed by a pane of glass. The artist has covered them with latex and exposed them to direct sunlight and the effects of the weather over a long period of time. The material, which is opaque and impermeable to air in its original state, becomes an irregularly structured, translucent surface that bears witness to tensions and cracks as a result of this artificially produced ageing process. This semipermeable filter partially and restrictedly reveals another component of the installation: a picture of the band “The Cure”. This is part of a fan calendar that – among others – had a permanent place in his parents’ kitchen in the 1990s.

With this installation, which connects the private with the public, Fabian Reetz reflects on changes in systems of reference over time. In doing so, he creates minimalist objects that on the one hand pick up on the cult of idols, and on the other ask about their temporality.
“Being a fan, living one’s own life through someone else, fulfilling one’s own desires through someone else’s career – these were mechanisms of escapism for young people in the GDR. In the 90s, the Wave Gothic Treffen emerged from this subculture. Part of the founding myth is “The Cure” concert on Leipzig’s Festwiese, for which large numbers of starving goths from all corners of the defunct GDR made the pilgrimage, only to be beaten up by skinheads afterwards.

2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the 30th anniversary of the festival, the protagonists of the time are writing books and an institutionalised classification of the youth movement of the time is beginning. At the same time, there are newer fan groups around bands like “The Cure” and “Depeche Mode”, networked via forums and social media, in which the focus is on queerness, sexuality and playing with the gender roles of these bands. Agendas shift, while the projection screen in the form of Robert Smith’s lipstick and cobwebby hair is still onstage after decades.”

(Excerpt from the exhibition text by Michaela Mai, 2022)

installation shot by Jannis Uffrecht


The following is an immersive spatial installation that deepens my preoccupation with goth culture.

In southern Thuringia, there has been a slate quarrying area near Lehesten since the 13th century, which is a source of identity for the surrounding villages. Most of the houses here are clad in slate. Since industrialisation, the region has been in a productive but socio-economically precarious position. During the GDR, mining was dominated by the planned economy, the economic situation deteriorated visibly, and in the 1990s mining came to an end. Outside the small village centres, there are mainly two-storey, simple single-family houses covered with slate. After the end of quarrying, the material became more expensive and since then there have been hardly any new building projects with slate. The cultural and economic history of this milieu in southern Thuringia can be traced on the basis of the material. The roofing of the houses works by nailing the uniform shingles to the outer façade of the house. Contrary to this traditional procedure, I would like to knot slate tiles with decorative chains.

Self-dyed shrouds and self-made jewellery are an integral part of goth fashion during the GDR. Due to the lack of appropriate clothing, an inventive dedication to a gothic outfit was necessary, which was picked up via West German television and through magazines. Often this went hand in hand with resistance to conservative parents and was an intense act as a moment of demarcation in a restrictive state. For me, slate bricks linked by jewellery chains carry the lifeworld of goths in East Germany, as they combine the tension of one’s own parental home with breaking out through individualised, self-made looks.

While at the end of the 1980s the goth scene mainly found its place in youth clubs and sometimes in cemeteries and private cellars, in the 1990s it was places like the Moritzbastei or the Darkflower in Leipzig that were central to the scene. Old vaulted cellars are often venues for goth clubs, inspired by the iconic Batcave in London.

The installation consists of funnel-shaped, thin steel scaffolding to which slate panels are tied – creating individual columns. The slate plates are knotted together by jewellery chains, which on the one hand refer to Gothic jewellery, such as the chains by Robert Smith (see appendix). On the other hand, it is important to me to understand the handling of the slate as fashion. The funnel-shaped objects are in turn attached by wire ropes and jewellery chains either to the beams, or to the walls of the interior by eyebolts. As can be seen in the sketches, the columns with wire ropes arched by tension are reminiscent of vaulted Gothic clubs. With the columns, the material that is normally used for exterior façades is also brought into the interior and re-evaluated. Above the bar, I want to hang a plain slate-clad Schlid that quotes the Batcave’s iconic coffin-shaped logo. (see sketches).