Stephen O’Malley

Banks Violette: Untitled DVD

Posted: Jan 27, 2006

OUT NOW: Chrome Peeler Records along with the Whitney Museum of American Art has released the sound component from the exhibition Banks Violette: Untitled, presented at the Museum from May 27 through October 2, 2005. Created by Thorns, Ltd., and written by band member Snorre Ruch, the 83-minute DVD presents the exhibitions integral musical component in full. The DVD allows the listener to experience the subtle effects of the ambient sound piece, which was recorded in Dolby surround.

Thorns, Ltd., composed of Finn Olav Holthe, Snorre Ruch, and Jon Wesseltoft, is a separate outlet from Ruchs band Thorns, formed in Norway and known within the Black Metal music scene. Thorns, Ltd. employed techniques of experimental noise and sound, within the heavy metal genre, that helped to create an immersive environment within the installation of the sculptural artwork.

The installation and its sound component re-imagine the notion of the romantic sublime through narratives drawn from popular culture. Violettes work probes the malleable border in the cultural psyche where fictional worlds for example, the private, personal fantasies engendered by adolescent subcultures or obsessive music fandom slip into reality. Untitled revolves around an idea of complicity between the artist, the Thorns, Ltd. Musicians, and the audience interacting with the piece. The installation draws in part from a series of violent and tragic events that took place in the 1990s in Norway around an insular music subculture called Black Metal, whose ethos embraced nihilism, theatrical morbidity, aggression and violence. Supported by the artists characteristic black stage elements, the central sculptural component formally evokes the ruined, burnt skeleton of a church, which itself echoes disparate representations, including the romantic iconography of landscape painters like Caspar David Friedrich as well as an actual church burning that was the violent culmination of the events in Norway. Cast in bonded salt, the material surface of the piece is alternately glittery, icy, and roughly matte, suggesting both the living and the dead. While the viewer can engage the piece purely as a sculptural abstraction or as structures of mourning and memorial, others who are familiar with the subcultures involved will interpret the piece differently. Ultimately, Violettes objects, rather than telling a single story, testify to the idea that all events have multiple, often conflicting readings.

The relationship between the sound, recorded in Dolby surround, and physical components create what the artist refers to as a doubling effect. While a viewer can engage the piece purely as a semi-abstract sculptural investigation of art historical forms and their continued relevance, if the viewer is aware of Ruch's history, a reorientation of interpretation occurs. The evocation of mourning and the specter of memory allow the music to exist as an attempt to reanimate and repair past mistakes. Like the sculpture itself, the sound component becomes a kind of ambiguous aural landscape to the work, suggesting, rather than articulating, a larger narrative structure through the precise flow of its rigorously scored but varied tracks.

Limited to 400 copies. You can order the DVD directly from Chrome Peeler thru PayPal at for $12.