Banks Violette (with Stephen O'Malley)
In the first decade of the 21st century, Banks Violette created a unique body of work that takes as its inspiration and subject the subculture of black metal, a dark genre within heavy metal. A fan and musician himself, Violette is interested in the suspension of disbelief engendered by the music's unabashed and often over-the-top nihilism and allusions to violence, which are ardently defended, and at times re-created, by the genre's dedicated fans. Violette's bleed (2005) is representative of his distinct, gothic vocabulary in its use of black epoxy to create shiny, seductive surfaces; its fusion of geological motifs with musical or theatrical sets; and its deployment of sound as a sculptural material. The center of the piece is occupied by a shattered black stage, with a pile of shards suggestive of the heady, destructive undercurrents of black metal. At the same time, the shards are referential of a landscape, recalling Robert Smithson's broken-glass sculptures of the 1960s. Violette's frequent use of salt—evidenced here in the organic heaps that surround and encrust the speakers—also stems from his engagement with the work of Smithson, whose environmental artwork Spiral Jetty (1970) is continually renewed by the precipitation of salt over the Great Salt Lake in Utah.
These visual elements are accompanied by a nonlinear ambient sound track by Stephen O'Malley, a composer and member of the metal group Sunn 0))). The extreme low-frequency droning produces a palpable, dense quality in the space between the speakers, the vibrations accumulating into an immediate, tactile, and even excruciating sensation for the viewer. The sculptural qualities of the auditory experience coalesce with the visual forms, immersing the spectator in a sinister and foreboding environment.