And what was best! Gab was in town! (So we had pizza and beer beside Urbanhafen.) A single photo (of three photos from Dasniya) of last week’s public outing of the first section of Black Metal 1 at Autokino. Seems to be getting somewhere. And now back to working on my own.
I’ll be performing an excerpt from Black Metal 1 this Thursday at Autoteile in Kreuzberg at Eat More Bondage // Film Evening. All the details? Yes!
Film Evening // Eat More Bondage
– a short film evening on ropes and bondage
21h, Thursday, 28th July
Doors open at 20h, performance at 21h, and films + beer directly after.
AUTOKINO ist ein privater Vorführort für Filme Videos VJ-Performances und Crossover Media.
We all know that a varied diet is good for one’s health, and being in a monodiet is not only adverse to wellbeing, but in the long run increases the risk of health hazards. It is the same with art, films and bondage. A diverse portfolio of possibilities will be good for your appetite, for your health, your view of the world and for your eyeballs.
Having this in mind we put together a short-film evening having bondage/shibari as main topic, but with special focus on non-mainstream views and experiments, which break or bend gender/performative/traditional/humour/aesthetic/other stereotypes.
We are still putting the program together, so feel free to send your suggestions… DIY productions are specially welcome.
Films confirmed so far (list under construction):
- Black Metal 1 by Frances d’Ath
- Let Go by Mischa Badasyan
- I/XXI by Aida Jara
- Slowdance (trailer) by Harvey Rabbit
- Remember Gay Love Story by The Strange Life of the Savages
- Fight and flight by Proa Proeza
- Cuerpas&Cuerdas (Bodies&Ropes) by Missogina, Proa Proeza and Maria Mutebox
All this began a couple of months ago, when Isabelle Schad said, “looks like I won’t have time in April to get in the studio with you, so here’s a week for you, call it a mini-residency.” Her studio, Wiesenburg Halle in Wedding, is in a 150 year-old, abandoned former homeless people’s asylum on the Panke canal that was built on funds from the Berlin Jewish community, then appropriated by the Nazis, used as a factory for manufacturing insignia, then munitions, then bombed and shot to all crap, then quietly returning to forest while the original owner’s descendants live in the front apartment building (an entire story in itself) – and a few years ago, Isabelle and the Wiesen 55 e.V. got funds to turn one of the decrepit halls (well, mostly its walls) and neighbouring areas into a rehearsal space surrounded by gardens. Huge and airy, and with a full lighting and sound rig, plus a kitchen, mezzanine, garden full of birds and life, a lot like being in the forest and not in a big city.
So I arrived on Monday with bike (cos I was taking full advantage of being in Wedding to go morning cyclocross-ing in the forest), two bags of stuff, and one “I have no idea what I’m doing.” It’s been a long time since I was in a studio making art, and a solo … that’s something I’ve not really ever done. Solos are the present currency of performance makers of all stripes, in large part because they’re cheap to stage and tour, in part also because of the ongoing fixation on autobiographical authenticity, but I’ve always preferred the intermediary of dancers (even if I performed in my own work). Doing a solo has always been a mix of “I have nothing to say,” and “I have no idea what to do,” and inflicting one on myself … maybe now I’m capable of it cos I don’t really give a shit anymore.
Black Metal is a lot about that last bit, doing stupid stuff in my bedroom to amuse myself, not caring about potential audience (or lack of) or all the usual games of funding, producing, venue-ing. Of course watching the video of the showing it has to be ‘good’ in the sense of I myself as my own audience have to get a kick out of it and go, “fukkenyeeeaah!” which means I have to go all spectacle on my own arse – to put it another way, in choreographing and performing myself, I have to be convincing to my other self as audience, I have to be good (competent, artistic, compelling) at what I do.
Lucky I had some ideas. Not big ones, not many, only four – really only one but call it four – not very ambitious, not wanting to make something big or complicated or involved. I’ve been trying on and off for a few years to get a solo out, and kept falling into the trench of unrealisable ideas, paralysed by too bigness, things that require budget and support and all, and seeing Germany is consistently uninterested in what I do, the likelihood of making a big work with several dancers and all the rest is highly improbable, which left a solo, which kept failing when my thinking modality banged up against incommensurability with budget. So, basically bedroom stupidity. With metal.
Things I love: Heavy metal. Hoonage. Swearing.
When I was a student in Australia, SBS used to have Top Fuel drag racing on a Friday night. Fukken heaven. This isn’t a piece about that or swearing, but there’s something of the cultural displeasure at both in it, what’s acceptable and what’s not. Heavy metal – in any of its derivatives, death, speed, thrash, hair, black, folk, doom, power, and on and on – is only really palatable to an outside audience if it’s made ironic. Metal might be many things but it’s never ironic. The commitment to the theatre of the act never lets up, never gives a knowing wink at the audience, no matter how ridiculous and embarrassing it might look – listen and look at Lost Horizon, or Gorgoroth’s Kraków, brilliance all round.
There’s a close relationship between punk, goth, and metal; I’ve been all three and can say, Metal Rulez!!! In seriousness and partisanship here, I think there is a larger possibility for creativity in metal than the other two which comes in part from the—wait, must headbang to Sword in the Metal Wind for a bit—ok, back … comes in part from the theatricality (not to confuse that with playing pretend, theatricality here is the performance of image), and part from the joy of music. Listen to Sword in the Metal Wind or Gorgoroth’s Antichrist, constantly changing time signatures, rhythms, melodies, keys, even Slayer’s Raining Blood goes all over the place. It draws on the history of western classical and folk music (or for Taiwan’s Chthonic, traditional Taiwanese music), and for me there’s a lineage I can hear with say, Trelldom or Sunn O))) and Hildegard von Bingen across a thousand years. Which is maybe to say there’s a greater intellectualism (as differentiated from politicalism in punk) in metal that its theatricality doesn’t always make apparent.
Metal, yeah, I could go on about it all day. I’ve used metal music in pretty much every work I’ve made, it’s probably one of those things I should deny myself in the interests of getting over my habits and devices. This piece I wanted to go into the least-liked of subgenres, the one of church burnings, murder, neo-Nazis, Norway, corpse paint, that inadvertently made some incredible and influential music. And as I went along, Gaahl, the lead singer of Gorgoroth, and with his own project Trelldom (and others), tall Gaahl from a fjord village north of Bergen with the haunted eyes and penchant for burning churches and torturing people who cross his line, gay Gaahl, became central. I’d planned to only use music from him or in which he sung, but that didn’t work out during the residency, limited to what I had on my laptop. So, Sunn O))) which I’ve used so many times it’s a cliché, Gorgoroth from immediately before Gaahl joined (the incredible eponymous track from the Antichrist album), fucking Nazi Burzum – going to go into why I’m using Burzum and why it doesn’t seem like a bad idea right now: maybe it’s possible to appropriate his music, and maybe within the context of black metal and the history of the last millennia of northern Europe it’s apt, maybe also it elucidates without nuance the arrogant misogyny, nationalism, hetero-bro-ing, racism of black metal, and by extension all metal and most contemporary music genres.
And then there’s Hildegard von Bingen, who you should really read about cos she was well awesome. I wanted to use some mediæval music, and obviously my proclivities and interests meant the composer should be a woman, and best if it was from 12th century-ish northern Europe. This doesn’t leave so many possibilities, but lucky my ongoing enjoyment of Mechthild von Magdeburg led to her, though they likely never met and were on opposites of Thüringen. I was trying to find some non-folk music that was instrumental, but seems like gaping yaws is the default, so her O Tu Suavissima Virga swings between too beautiful, too easy, too overbearing, too saccharine, quite a few other toos, but also might be the piece. After the showing we had plenty of talking about music, about Hildegard and soaring mediæval sacral music, and how the showing was a one-to-one relationship of music to dance. A proper sound design is one possibility, though I wonder if that might become too complicated and not crap enough. For the moment I’m not sure. Same goes for lighting, though I’d love to have Giacomo Gorini along. Either way whatever I do needs to be convincing even without sound or lights.
Inadvertently I’ve jumped from a general what I was doing and how it came about to a long blab about music. Which means I’ll have to save writing about what I was doing for next time.
And here’s the video from the showing of Black Metal at Wiesenburg Halle on Sunday, April 24th. 33 minutes of bedroom metal idiocy plus mediæval chick music (that’d be Hildegard von Bingen).
I haven’t actually watched this all yet, just a quick cleanup edit (it was a showing, a bit of start-stop) – and thank you Dasniya Sommer for pointing camera very nicely at my highjinks. I tend to video most of what I do when I’m working, so I can be my own choreographer / director, and in the context of my residency in Wiesenburg Halle, this was just another day and first attempt at stringing everything together plus having a few people watching. Some of it I like; some of it I’m ambivalent about – writing through the whole thing is for another post.
Music-wise, yes, that’s Burzum; yes, he’s a white shit fucking Nazi. Other music was Gorgoroth, curiously not with Gaahl on vocals, as he is somewhat a primary part of this piece and his solo work, Trelldom has been fully thrashed while I was in Wiesenburg. More Gaahl; less Varg. And yeah, a conversation about black metal and Nazi fuckery is one I am both having with myself and putting aside. Also Sunn O))). And at the end, Hildegard von Bingen, who is metal as hell. Which is to say, the audio is a semi-placeholder.
Anyway, enough bollocks. Here’s the video of me, black metal bedroom. (It’s 462mb, so prolly not a good idea to slay it on your mobile phone or crap internet.)
Also: Again thanks to Dasniya Sommer for video and a huge number of other things; Sarah-Jane Norman for metalicity; Charlotte Pistorius for make-up, costume, and other assistance; David Young for art & theatre discussions; and Isabelle Schad & Wiesen 55 e.V. for providing my residency in Wiesenburg Hallen.
Another night in Alte Kantine Wedding, which is beyond convenient for me; when I started the ground outside was lightly dusted in fine snow, and a few hours later was cloaked in three centimetres or so of white. Last night was also special because Valquire joined me to watch and film a little. We’re planning on making something of a dance film of the black metal scene I’ve been working on, so this was a a first watch, talk, bash some ideas around.
The usual warmup preceded, and it’s gratifying that the last few weeks of a daily hour on my wobble board has given me more than just calf muscles (which are also nice). Still doing arm swings, which are progressively getting more complicated, and just beginning to thread their way into the movement. There were some useful things that came up though it feels a little approximate and sparse at the moment, things that will resolve themselves through some concentrated repetition.
And the ropes have been lurking in a bag also. That for next week as well.
Last night, while at Dasniya’s simultaneous departure gathering / private watching of the documentary video of Die Geschichte vom Soldaten, a friend remarked on how she needs to explain to over-enthusiastic lefties, brought on by a somewhat moronic person wearing a Burzum t-shirt at a queer shindig, that no, her Sunn O))) hoodie does not connote a crypto-facism. Oh, black metal, the empty signifier of all that is deliciously, seductively other.
This morning, taking the day off after absence of weekend, The Physics arXiv Blog brings me Moshers, Heavy Metal and Emergent Behaviour, where a bunch of researchers find that a mosh pit resembles a disordered 2D ‘gas-like state’, and a circle pit an ordered 2D ‘vortex-like state’. Though I’ll be picky and say I associate pits more with punk and hardcore, and various forms of headbanging and ‘hail satan’ arms with metal (I suppose the bro-ism of American nu-metal (hmm, should that have an umlaut? nü-metal … probably a ‘k’ or ‘v’ somewhere also. NÜ MKTVL?) crosses over substantially though being primarily concerned with appropriating displays of aggrotainment). Nonetheless, we shall overlook the link to the A7*cough*nümktxvl*cough*X moshpit … oh god fucking Hatebreed?). Maybe to say their physics is good but music preferences … This winter, I are mostly listening to Striborg.
(Parenthetically, I put Bolt Thrower and Crass on Dasniya’s iPod, in-between Munir Bashir and her ballet class music.)
And while mooching around in the early afternoon, Black Metal Theory gave Guido Seger’s master’s thesis, A Blaze in the Northern Sky: Black metal as an expression of extremist politics in modern day Europe. Oh dear, back to aforementioned empty signifier.
I was thinking of Žižek’s Tarrying with the Negative, the cover is a flag with a circular hole cut at its centre, where the coat of arms with red communist star had resided; the flag of the anti-Ceauşescu revolution. The hole is an absence of the prior, yet not yet reified into the (sadly predictable) subsequent; Žižek describes it as “‘sublime’ in the strictest Kantian sense'”, an open void where the “symbol standing for the organizing principle of the national life” once lay. It is both an inchoate sign of opposition, and a convenient dumping ground; that is to say, whether we wave the flag or interpret it, this empty signifier is the ideal repository for all meaning; it is never full, nor, curiously, contradictory.
Guido says his thesis asks the question, “What does black metal tell us about the resurgence of nationalist politics and racial violence that emerges under pressure of the European Union and what is the underlying cause of these sentiments?” A pertinent question, and to be unfair, I’ve not read it yet, and this isn’t a commentary of his thesis. Rather I’m stringing together a few things from the last few days which have metal – specifically black metal – and neo-nazism in common.
“What does x tell us about n?”, where n is ‘plague of fucking nazis’ and x stands for the unknown quantity, an empty signifier. Why, specifically, black metal? What is fascinating, enchanting about it that, say, the nazi skinhead/punk scene isn’t? Both are established around an identification with a particular culture where music, bands, record labels, venues form the locations in space through which the protagonists move. Both also have clearly delineated visual codes, either overt or subtle; clothing, appearance, demeanour as pictograms or acronyms that are not legible to outsiders: an anarchist punk might have a Crass bum flap, while a nazi skinhead white laces in their steelcap boots. Both nazi skins and black metallers have engaged in arson; the latter of churches, the former of immigrant asylums.
Perhaps more germane is that irrespective of the culture, various forms of fascism, extremism, and bigotry reside latently within, and simultaneously the culture as a whole is always ripe for appropriation and acquisition by these forms. How these manifest, and how they are discerned from outside is perhaps a function of the theatrical and symbolic within the culture. And black metal has both in abundance.
Conversely, the further ‘right’ one goes, the greater the uncritical and unreconstructed flirtation with symbolism becomes (I would say that certain aspects of the ‘left’ are also prone to this, which is perhaps a symptomatic of how close they are to their supposed opposites), which goes hand-in-hand with a peculiar appropriation of symbolism rather different from the one that cut the hole in the flag.
Metal again. Christian metal this time. Stryper anyone? To Hell with the Devil illustrates for me horribly and enthrallingly these internal and external forms. Without their christianity, they would likely still be metallers, perhaps not as famous. Regardless, as much as they were manufactured, their ‘metalness’ is is genuine, in that they came from within the culture. Their ‘metalness’ is simultaneously false, the visual codes wrong; it looks right, but then it doesn’t, and the demeanour of the music similarly so.
Perhaps a better illustration – back to fucking nazis, and German ones at that – is a recent piece in Der Spiegel, YouTube Neo-Nazis: The Far Right Updates Its Online Image. Ignoring Spiegel’s usual sensationalism, and regarding solely the accompanying image, we see a group of burning torch-wielding, black-clad marchers wearing expressionless white masks. There’s a lot of acquisition of symbolism going on here. Aside from the tired cliché of burning torches and their history with nazis, romanticism, and 19th Century nationalism, the black is specifically appropriated from anarchist / antifascist, Black Block / Autonomism, while the masks copy a far more recent socio-political movement, Anonymous and V for Vendetta.
What’s striking and material is how it is unsettlingly wrong. The components somehow do not sit properly together. Perhaps also there is a sense it is too serious, lacking in humour, self-aware irony, or just a certain lightness. This, I think, demonstrates one part of what separates right extremism from the culture within which it seems to reside.
The second part is that contrary to the culture itself, the comparable nazi version always comes after. That is to say, whether it is punk, skin, metal, or any other genre and its associated culture, irrespective of any always already present and latent fascist tendencies, in no case have these emerged from a prior existing right wing or nationalist music; the nazification always comes after and always requires this sub-genre to build an ill-fitting appropriation of and affinity with the existing theatre and symbolism.
Black metal has perhaps become ideally suited for this at the moment, as the empty hole into which all fears are dumped. Nazi skins, however much they dominate the stereotype are just that, and their imagery is tired, as evinced by the pseudo-Anonymous Immortals, (Die Unsterblichen – sounds like a German Evanescence bland metal band) and similar attempts to remake the not-so-far right. In black metal our desire for a perfect right-extremist Other can be found, and does not all the symbolism, all the acts prove this? After all, is Burzum not the perfection of black metal in its entirety, made explicit? The propaganda of his deeds preceding the manifesto.
Perhaps too, there is a fear of the theatrical, the corpse paint, the hair and clothing; the peculiar, almost embarrassing obsession with satanism, paganism, and romanticism that disturb maleness in a way the hypermasculine of skinheads, or the anonymous normality of Die Unsterblichen doesn’t and can’t. And let’s be clear, even the queer left privileges certain masculinities over femininity, the former always more genuine, more real, less troubling than the latter.
Well yes, there is something inherently untrustworthy in black metal, exactly as there is in industrial music with their crypto-fascist costumery (Throbbing Gristle and Laibach are obvious examples), which slithered uneasily over into either genuine neo-nazism, or ‘taking it far too seriously with an absence of critical distance given the subject matter’ (Death in June), and the commensurate hysteria of the media, government and left groups in response.
There is also something entirely unsurprising that music and its surrounding culture can produce Crass or Wolves in the Throne Room on one side, and Skrewdriver or Burzum on the other. A more realistic attitude might be then to maintain a certain scepticism towards all music and its surrounding cultures; an expectation that all will always at some place devolve to result in a nationalist sub-genre, and indeed from even before the ur-genre always already have.
Which is a very unsatisfactory place to finish.
It might be worthwhile to note that black metal is not unproblematic within the right extremist, national socialist world either.
What still troubles me is why specifically black metal? Why over all other genres is the real and presumed neo-nazism such a site of critical importance? And why now? It’s not as though it’s new, Varg Vikernes and the original Norwegian black metal scene is 25 years in the past. It’s also abundantly clear if, for example, I say I like punk or ska I’m not talking about the nazi offspring of either, and there is no confusion – whether or not such an absolutist statement is true – that the former is to its core opposed to the latter. The obverse in respect to black metal, and metal more broadly is curiously also the case. To say, “I like black metal,” is to be held suspect, it requires of me an explanation that is never sufficient; there always lies suspicion that I’m going off to burn down a church, and light a burning swastika off the embers.
Admittedly I do this also. Hold black metal slightly suspect that is, not burn down churches, etc. Perhaps because the signifiers of National Socialist Black Metal are not so clear for me, in the way that, say nazi punk is. Though come on, Google NSBM, if the heavy-handed ‘Nordic’ symbolism doesn’t immediately give it away, the obvious band names or album titles will; that’s if there isn’t an swastika or some other silly neo-nazi sigil. As with Stryker there’s predominately some subtle or glaring identification which doesn’t allow much confusion. So despite the clarity of NSBM signifiers, guilt still spills out and accrues across not just black metal, but all metal.
Which still doesn’t address the questions, or come any closer to framing them coherently.
There was a rehearsal yesterday, but it was rubbish, so I left early. Best let that one die miserably. Today though, was rather good. Sometimes rehearsing alone just feels like a very long self-indulgent body maintenance programme. Some floor yoga, some pseudo-Klein, kinesiology stuff, lots of merciless, slow pliés, improvisation scraped from various people in the past — Forsythe, Greco, Lachambre — so far from the roots that it’s probably only me who thinks it bears any resemblance to what they taught, occasional pauses to eat fruit … trying various things to see what’s possible with knee and achilles …
Whatever it is I’m trying to do, it seems that certain things generate a corporeality that suits this, that somehow generates an intensity in muscles, limbs, joints that if I don’t do these ‘warmup’ things, doesn’t appear. Tonight was five hours of this. Alone is surprisingly uncomplicated; it takes around two hours to get through all the ‘warmup’ stuff — somewhere during that it turns from warming up to actually working, but I’m not really sure what is what, probably some time after the plié barrage. There’s moments of “What am I doing, for fuck’s sake?” but usually just a change of music solves that.
And tonight’s music was: Abruptum, Bolt Thrower, a little Burzum but it felt too Nazi-ish and that line isn’t one I want to go down in this work yet, Deathspell Omega, Gorgoroth and Mayhem of course, and finally Sun O))), (who are playing in Berlin soon!). Getting the music right is a lot of it. I was thinking about mosh pits and other sublime moments of punk gigs, and that there’s something in this of a mosh pit, or one where there is only one person, or the expression of hysteria of a metal gig, a little of headbanging, though the more I work on this stuff the clearer it is that the way one dances to the music — mosh pit for punk, headbanging for metal, something entirely other yet from the same world for black metal and doom — describes the music. It is the expression of worship, or of sublimation.
Tonight it seems I’ve finally made sense of a bit of this, I know what goes on, what I have to hang on to in order to last the ride. I also know a bit of what isn’t there, that too, the absence of the future of what it is beyond where I’ve got to. It’s potentially longer than I expected, which raises a question of what is the actual music for this, given that what I’m rehearsing to isn’t what I’d intended on using.
Another small realisation came about when I tried using Wolves in the Throne Room and reflexively slapped on Antichrist. There’s a genre of black metal, and separately a philosophy (Black Metal Theory) that touches on this genre, which takes the particular musical elements and aesthetics — the drums, guitars, voices and turns them from darkness to transcendentality, which yes, this can be serviceable for, but not here. (As well, I’m not so interested in a lot of North American metal, it’s a bit too full of bros swinging their dicks, or to put it another way, the cultural landscape in which black metal exists is a reflection of that culture, and in this instance, the US is synonymous with obnoxious.) abjection goes … well, I think into the abyss. It’s not satanic exactly, though uses those tropes, but it’s more of an extreme atheism, possibly not even philosophy. It might be a nihilism that seeks its own oblivion through the the act of destroying everything else. In this you could say it’s pretty negative.
So it’s starting to make sense, which I think is going to help a lot with the other parts. The next two weeks I’m rehearsing a bit more, also splitting my time with Melanie Lane on something I have not a clue about yet, except it might be called dust will not account for everything, and perhaps is influenced a little by Derrida’s essay in Writing and Difference: The Theatre of Cruelty and the Closure of Representation.
As for the video, it’s just a sketch of some ideas I’m dredging up, as well as a dialogue with my knee and achilles tendons — it’s peculiar to dance constantly paying attention to localised regions of catastrophe.
Waking up without coffee at the moment, and of course breakfast reading starts with Ideologic, and so I find myself late leaving as I watch the 2 minutes and 9 seconds of Slow Southern Steel over and over. Oh this is a film I want to see. Metal south of the Mason Dixon line, southern trash, Weedeater, Dixie Witch… more! more!
SUNN O))) @ Volksbühne/Prater
Sunday, May 24 2009, 8:00 PM
MUSIKBÜHNE: SUNN O)))
So. 24.05.2009, 20:00 Uhr Volksbühne im Prater
STEPHEN O’MALLEY, der Doyen des Drone Doom, stattet am 24. Mai gemeinsam mit seinem Kollegen GREG ANDERSON als SUNN O))) dem temporären Ausweichquartier der Volksbühne einen Besuch ab. Da sich das auf niedrigsten Frequenzen angesiedelte Gitarrenbrummen, seit jeher das unkaputtbare Markenzeichen dieser ebenso verehrten wie weithin gefürchteten Band, tief ins Mauerwerk noch jedes Veranstaltungsortes einzufräsen pflegt, bittet die Musikbühne alle Interessenten inständig, die im Spielplan angekündigte Anfangszeit von 20 Uhr unbedingt ernst zu nehmen. Es gibt einfach Konzerte, die vor der magischen Zeitgrenze von 22 Uhr beendet sein sollten.
… uhhh… speechless…
This week has mostly involved me being in the studio and not so much time at the Centre. It was partially because of the weird rehearsal schedule, partially tiredness, and quite a bit of needing to make some sense of what in three weeks we will be doing and someone will be watching.
Yesterday afternoon, Cobie came in and we played with the 3-D camera set-up. Lots of very particular things involved to make the eyes, which it is quite easy to reveal are remarkably lazy in accepting what they see, not do what they do when there is just too much variation between what one eye and the other see and then everything goes, “owwwww!!!! pain!!!!”.
Today with Chris we got to see the results, about 10 seconds of footage in the 3-D Theatre of Bonnie. All quite successful, really. No, you can’t see what she really looks like in 3-D, but this is what the screen looks like without the 3-D glasses.