Primal energy is radiating in the Noordkaap project at the aptly named building, the "Energiehuis" (Energy House). Recently the exhibition Schwarzwald (Metal Heart III) exploded with axes, metal rage, and fire, as hundreds of metal fans and the art establishment converged in the city of Dordrecht in south Holland. This exhibition is presented by the art space Noordkaap in Dordrecht, located just a quick 10-minute ride from downtown Rotterdam by fast train, and a 5-minute bus ride from the Dordrecht Central Station.
Artist and curator Arno Coenen teamed up with the new contemporary arts space Noordkaap, run by Katja Diallo and Jan Kryszons, to take Coenen's Metal Heart Project to a whole other level.
Arno Coenen presented a black forest installation that is as complex as his own HD videos layers, or intense Eurotrash beer brewing alchemy. The artists participating in the project donned the guise of a Death Metal band in an exhibition that rides the edge of looking at power, sexuality, dark energy, and meditations on life and death. All of this is displayed and performed to the tune of extreme music and the mythical imagery surrounding the idea of the Schwarzwald (the Black Forest in south western Germany). The opening night mixed Wagnerian opera with tunes of Mayhem and axe pounding fury, bringing in a dark shining night of the new and unexpected. The 300-plus opening-night crowd was made up of various metal fans, alongside museum and gallery elite. The motley crew of artists includes Abner Preis (USA), Alexander Krone (Denmark), CHAOMETRIC (NL), Arno Coenen (NL), Dragan Striskovic (Croatia), Gwen Stok (NL), Hans van Bentem (NL), IRIS (NL), Martyn F. Overweel (NL), Luuk Bode (NL), Marinus de Ruiter (NL), Martin C. de Waal (NL) and Michael Markwick (USA/NL).
The entire project plays with all genres and subgenres that exist in metal. But it reaches beyond stereotypes of the various cultures (such as the purely pop trashy side) of the metal movements. As Arno Coenen says, it's a huge world of all kinds of bands and perspectives but he was inspired also by black metal tied to the pagan back-to-nature movement. This idea could not help but remind me of a scene in Andrei Tarkovsky's film "Andrei Rublev" where the traveling Icon Painter encounters a "dark night of the soul" caught up in a black forest, stumbling on a spring pagan ritual. Like in Tarkovsky's film, a startling whole new world is revealed to the newcomer.
The project also takes into account the serious anxiety felt by many of the different original bands and their discomfort with the mainstream. Large sculptures and drawings tap the power and aesthetic extremes of the energy of the music as well as the imagery so often utilized. The show also connects to the original content of death metal which seems to tie the true practitioners and fans to their own feelings of mortality. The complexity of all the genres of metal culture are there below the surface in the show. All the dark imagery, lyrics and music can be seen through metaphorical lenses which is often overlooked by people searching for the usual gallery experience.
Given its interactive recordings, performances and installation work, the show its a multi-sensory experience. Later a collectors-group vinyl LP will be released, complete with printed matter and music from the artists in the project. In true touring form, as with any band ripping up the airwaves, the project will be hitting the road throughout the EU and possibly other locations.
At Noordkaap we step into a black wood and contemplate not only the culture of metal, but the dark night of the soul. "Death", as Abner Preis stated in his tours at the opening, is displayed in a multi-layered, multi-faceted way. The group has constructed a massive memento mori of sorts that is on limited viewing and hitting the road soon. Chuck Schuldiner might be raising his horns in appreciation….the "scavenger of human sorrow" rises like a flock of ravens above the landscape. It will be interesting to see how the project grows as it travels since the possibilities are endless... Noordkap is a new player on the cultural front of the Netherlands in South Holland.