Black Metal-Inspired Exhibitions To Open In Amsterdam This Friday

February 13, 2007

This coming Friday, February 16, the de Appel arts centre in Amsterdam, Holland will open two exhibitions that could be of interest to the lovers of heavy metal, black metal, and grindcore: "Steven Shearer - Steven Shearer" and "Erik Smith - The Ghost of James Lee Byars Calling", both on view from February 17 until April 15. The exhibitions are not documentary presentations about these musical styles, but presentations by artists who are themselves fascinated by this music and its subculture.

Steven Shearer (New Westminster, 1968) is a product of the leading, internationally renowned art scene that flourishes in the West-Canadian harbour town of Vancouver that since the middle of the 1980s enjoys worldwide attention as a major epicentre for contemporary photo-, film- and video art. In this context, Shearer's prevailing passionate devotion to more "traditional" practices like drawing and painting (graphic art, oil on canvas, silkscreen, lithographs etc.) is all the more extraordinary. Shearer generally derives the motifs for many of his colourful, figurative canvases from the obscure, suburban subculture of the American black- and heavy metal scene and its various (Scandinavian) offshoots, or from the innocent schmaltz of 1970s forgotten pop idols. Exhibited will be for example "poems", with lines of poetry derived from band names, album- and song titles from the twilight world of metal micro genres like black metal and goregrind. He assembles these with a fine sense for verbal drama and ditto musicality into blasphemous, often abstract sounding "poems" that are applied as white-stencilled letters on a uniform black wall. Some phrases sound unintentionally humorous ("Abandoned By Death"),others majestically obscene ("Scatophagious Downpour"). Furthermore, there will be shown a series of drawings entitled "longhairs", that includes a portrait of Euronymous, the pseudo mythic founder of the Norwegian black metal formation MAYHEM. A recent paiting in the show portrays Quorthon, the recently deceased leader of the Swedish black metal formationBATHORY. Shearer's outlook reveals a strong personal (and inevitably also autobiographical) tinted sympathy for these sub-cultures. He played guitar for long, before devoting himself to art. The result in the exhibition is a very personal portrait of this intruiging sub-culture.

Besides this show there will be a presentation by Erik Smith ­ "The Ghost of James Lee Byars Calling". In this installation, the work of the internationally renowned performance and conceptual artist, James Lee Byars (1932-1997) is fused with the underground realm of black metal music. Byars' dramatic flair and unconditional pursuit of "the essential" in form and concept parallel the dark theatricality of black metal and its characteristic idolisation of pagan myths, Satanism, violence and destruction.

The title, "The Ghost of James Lee Byars Calling", is taken from an exhibition by Byars in Los Angeles (1969). Byars was obsessed by his own mortality, which filters through in the minimal and ephemeral quality of his performances and installations. Smith asked the Swedish black metal band BLODSRIT to recreate a sound work by Byars, "Perfect is My Death Word", during a concert in Berlin. A recording of this performance is part of the installation.

More than paying homage to Byars, the work is an invocation of cultural obsessions with blackness and the staging of death. However, Byars' fascination with his own death was always a philosophical pursuit; the absence and transcendence communicated in his work were devoid of any notion of spiritual redemption.

Preaching negation, black metal proclaims an outright rejection of Christian salvation with its celebrations of the demonic. Whereas Byars proclaims "Perfect is My Death Word", the band DARKTHRONE calls for "Total Death".

For more information, visit

Find more on
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • reddit
  • email

Comments Disclaimer And Information

BLABBERMOUTH.NET uses the Facebook Comments plugin to let people comment on content on the site using their Facebook account. The comments reside on Facebook servers and are not stored on BLABBERMOUTH.NET. To comment on a BLABBERMOUTH.NET story or review, you must be logged in to an active personal account on Facebook. Once you're logged in, you will be able to comment. User comments or postings do not reflect the viewpoint of BLABBERMOUTH.NET and BLABBERMOUTH.NET does not endorse, or guarantee the accuracy of, any user comment. To report spam or any abusive, obscene, defamatory, racist, homophobic or threatening comments, or anything that may violate any applicable laws, use the "Report to Facebook" and "Mark as spam" links that appear next to the comments themselves. To do so, click the downward arrow on the top-right corner of the Facebook comment (the arrow is invisible until you roll over it) and select the appropriate action. You can also send an e-mail to blabbermouthinbox(@) with pertinent details. BLABBERMOUTH.NET reserves the right to "hide" comments that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate and to "ban" users that violate the site's Terms Of Service. Hidden comments will still appear to the user and to the user's Facebook friends. If a new comment is published from a "banned" user or contains a blacklisted word, this comment will automatically have limited visibility (the "banned" user's comments will only be visible to the user and the user's Facebook friends).