A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness - Live II
‘What’s interesting about film is not the film, actually.’
A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness, directed by Ben Rivers and Ben Russell, is quietly connected to the history of Black Metal Theory (BMT), a simultaneously nascent and dying ‘metallectual’ movement that aims to invert, entangle, and reinvent the ordering of thought and music within the blackened continuum of metal and theory. The earliest known formulation of BMT was voiced around the ‘phenomenology’ panel of the first international conference on heavy metal, convened at Salzburg in the winter of 2008. The following winter, the first BMT symposium was held in Brooklyn, NY, resulting in the essay volume HideousGnosis, edited by Nicola Masciandaro. Two similar events followed: Melancology (London, 2011) and P.E.S.T. [Philial Epidemic Strategy Tryst] (Dublin, 2011). The website that announced the symposia defines BMT thus: ‘Not black metal. Not theory. Not not black metal. Not not theory. Black metal theory. Theoretical blackening of metal. Metallic blackening of theory. Mutual blackening. Nigredo in the intoxological crucible of symposia.’ In the wake of these gatherings, other publications have applied and/or reflected upon the BMT principle: Black Metal: Beyond theDarkness, ed. Tom Howells (Black Dog, 2012); Glossator 6: Black Metal, eds. Masciandaro & Negarestani (2012); Helvete: A Journal of Black MetalTheory (2013-); and Nab Saheb & Denys X. Arbaris, Bergmetal: Oro-Emblems of the Musical Beyond (HWORDE, 2014).
A Spell’s sideways connection to this history is evident generally in the pacific and patently non-kvlt space it creates for the genre and more specifically in its choice of Queequeg for the film’s black metal performance, a collaboration between the film’s lead actor Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (Lichens/OM), Weasel Walter (Flying Luttenbacher/Hatewave), Nick McMaster (Krallice), and Hunter Hunt-Hendrix (Liturgy), whose manifesto ‘Transcendental Black Metal: A Vision of Apocalyptic Humanism’ has been a touchstone of BMT discourse since its first publication in Hideous Gnosis. At the 9th Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, in what was described as the festival’s ‘darkest and most trippy evening. An audiovisual mindfuck from another world and a black mass of monumental dimensions,’ Hunt-Hendrix’s lecture on Transcendental Black Metal formed the introductory component in a tripartite evening program curated by Rivers and Russell entitled ‘A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness - Live.’ Characterized as ‘an intriguing confluence of curation, criticism and practice,’ this program offered ‘an oblique sneak preview’ of Ben & Ben’s upcoming collaboration in the form of an ‘annotated riff’ on A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness. Continuing the structure of this event, according to the film’s three principal sequences, Darklight will apply insights of BMT to further expansion, dilation, and blackening of the film’s significance on the occasion of its Dublin debut. A true symposium or discursive together-drinking (sym-posium), ‘A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness - Live II’ will conjure itself in the form of three hours of bleak speculation, loving commentary, and intoxicated pedagogy, under the aegises of Solitude, Community and Phenomenology:
Under the aegis of ‘Solitude,’ and addressing what has in relation to this section of the film been described as ‘a beautiful loneliness,’ Paul. J. Ennis will present ‘Bleak Theory.’ Much less a philosophy than a disposition, what he calls ‘an aesthetic impulse’—an attempt to ‘outbleak black’ that emerged out of P.E.S.T. (Dublin, 2011)—Ennis’s bleak theory captures the solitude and misanthropy characterizing the second wave of Norwegian Black metal, and will speak to Rivers’s interest in the power of landscape freed from context to immerse observers in the mysteries of the natural world (previously addressed with Two Years at Sea).
Paul J. Ennis completed his PhD in Philosophy at University College Dublin. He is the author of Continental Realism (Zero Books, 2011), co-editor, with Peter Gratton, of the Meillassoux Dictionary (Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming 2014) and co-editor, with Tziovanis Georgakis, of Twenty-First Century Heidegger (Springer, forthcoming 2014).
Under the aegis of ‘Community,’ and addressing the transition from solitude to collectivity immanent in the third wave of US Black metal and the original vision for the film, Edia Connole will answer the all important question ‘What is Black Metal Theory?’ by explaining the communal concept of love as it is taken-up and understood by Black metal theorists through medieval mystical exegesis, wherein all knowledge is understood to be knowledge acquired through love, per amorem agnoscimus. In exposing the instrumentality of Nicola Masciandaro to the transmission of this idea and its expression, Connole will speak to Russell’s interest in magnifying the nuances of cultural evolution (most prominently illustrated in Let Each One Go Where He May).
Edia Connole is the author of ‘What is Black Metal Theory?’ in P.E.S.T., eds. Michael O’Rourke and Karin Sellberg (forthcoming 2014) and co-author, with Scott Wilson, of ‘“[os mentis] mouth to mouth” with Nicola Masciandaro,’ in Weaponising Speculation, ed. Caoimhe Doyle (Punctum, forthcoming 2014).
Under the aegis of ‘Phenomenology,’ and addressing the tripartite dialectical progression of the film, Nicola Masciandaro will present ‘Silence: A Darkness to Ward Off All Spells.’ This presentation will unveil the question of silence as a dark intensive invalidation of discursive human identity, an increasingly powerful warding off of its terrible psychic spell. In the first stage of A Spell To Ward Off the Darkness, silence is what hovers within and without human conversation, disclosing it’s essentially hallucinatory, centrifugal, and hypocritical structure. In the second stage of the film, silence is what haunts human self-presence and aloneness in the minute and expansive forms of the extra-human world. In the third stage, silence is what secretly unnames the human inside the negativity of its own desperate self-representation, in the shared a-community of musical non-belonging. Interpreting these three levels of silence as phenomenal stages of a mystical ascent, Masciandaro’s presentation aims to invert all possible horizontal, human-to-human messages of the film into the pure verticality of silence itself.
Nicola Masciandaro is Professor of English at Brooklyn College (CUNY) and a specialist in medieval literature. Some principal themes of his work are: mysticism, commentary, decapitation, and heavy metal. Recent publications include: Dark Nights of the Universe, co-authored with Daniel Colucciello Barber, Alexander Galloway, and Eugene Thacker (NAME, 2013) and And They Were Two In One And One In Two, co-edited/authored with Eugene Thacker (SCHISM, 2014). Current projects include Sorrow of Being, a book on mystical sorrow, and Sufficient Unto the Day, a collection of essays against worry. He is the founding editor of the journal Glossator: Practice and Theory of the Commentary (glossator.org).
Respondents: Ben Rivers and Ben Russell.