Agoraphobia is the fear of wide open spaces. Anybody who’s ever suffered an attack of claustrophobia in will hardly understand that. Horror vacui may also be hard to understand in these times of slim and minimalistic, Bauhaus inspired design. Horror vacui is the artistic version of agoraphobia, the fear of empty spaces.
At the age of baroque, everything was decorated and embellished. The buildings were inhabited by statues of the Greek and Roman gods, the dresses and gowns were full of the most intrinsic patterns, and even nature could not be left alone: the baroque garden looked like a preview of Manhattan, a geometric pattern, grown with plants.
Why this fear? What was going on in the baroque man when he was looking at an undecorated wall? The baroque also was the age on enlightenment, where the human spirit found out it could judge the world. Humans were free: no god or old myths decided our fate, we decided it ourselves with our rationally thinking minds! The natural sciences started to flourish, and the dependency on old myths and superstitions gradually declined. Well, we’re speaking of a fraction of a percent of the population here, but it was that tiny sliver of society who ruled and built the cities and created the arts.
In these sometimes very intellectual people, the letting go of the old myths and the comfort of religion had them standing in front of the immense universe alone as a lost and lonely individual. They were experiencing what it meant to be just one particle on its own, and not be included into the intricate web that was religion and the old myths. That feeling needed to be appeased. Mood pharmaceuticals weren’t available then, so the solution was an artistic one: in order to not be remembered of the void without a god out there, that void was being filled with human art – the more soulful and sensual, the better.
PS: The dress above plays with an important part of the baroque dress: the frame. Baroque dresses had metal frames so they could create such a theatrical performance out of the female body, exaggerating the hip to an extreme, upholding the dress wrinkle-free through and an iron ring and a cage. Adolfo Sanchez, the creator of the “Skeleton skirt” above, took those underpinnings of the baroque dress, and put away with the fabric. At the age of baroque, female legs were never seen (that was the realm of men). Baroque nouveau allows an erotic glimpse of the legs, seen through a skeleton skirt that seems to have become transparent – a dream come true for men all around the world.