Tuesday, November 30, 2010

No Presents for Christmas: Lionel Maunz @ Bureau

The circulation of extreme metal identities about financialized culture is nothing surprising (as if any identity resists circulation…). These identities have been parasited by capital since their inception: Thurston Moore's bootleg 7" capturing Venom's stage-banter being a first-wave example of this, ossifying a highly circulated joke-tape among america's hardcore punk circles––the recording was made by a Black Flag crony when the band opened up for Venom in '86––into a saleable piece of wax for Moore's boutique "indie" label, Ecstatic Peace. Harmony Korine's use of Mystifier and Nifelheim as a score for his Dogpatch cum mondo-fashion ad, Gummo, is a prime example of the second wave, oedipally reprimanding all soon-to-be Vice readers for not matching their Darkthrone tees and homemade Slayer tattoos with red & black flannel or ironic mustaches. Furthermore that the identities associated with metal can be traced to the origin of KISS's merchandising empire goes to show how available such a subjective posture is to consumer docility and the agency of abject accumulation (merch hoarders, etc.).

So what happens when someone whose identity hinges on the cathexis with such consumer tropes decides to make contemporary art? Well, the last few decades brought us a taste in the guise of Matthew Barney. But now we are provided with a full-on feast thanks to Lionel Maunz's current show at Bureau, "Wail Eternal Scorn of Geologic." That I mentioned Barney is no coincidence, Maunz draws heavily from Barney's output as a sculptor and draughtsman, yet inauspiciously avoids the abject-baiting performativity that is the core of Barney's lionized practice. Instead, Maunz's sculptural work comes across like stage dressings for a concert (excuse me, "ritual") where even the scheduled acts don't even show up, sculptures that make one wish more people had taken to heart Michael Fried's foreswearings against theatricality.

The drawings fare better, perhaps solely on the merit that their physical encroachment on reality is limited to the virtual surfaces of the picture-plane. A mix of the mystical hoo-haw not only of Barney but also of wackos like Paul Laffoley or Stanislav Szukalski with the refined pencilwork of plagarized-by-Quorthon illustrator, Jos A. Smith. Within these works Maunz more convincingly illustrates the corporeal mysteries that are the emotional core of most "extreme" culture, offering the viewer schematic prompts to "Fornicate the Pyramid of Being" or that "Paradise lies in the shadow of swords," or no doubt other carnal mysteries to ambiguously seize.

Yet it is these very corporeal obsessions of extreme metal, the dasein of the mortuary, that provide it with a self-aware agency in the face of limitless capital; that the ecstatic limit of mortal life is offered as a bitter riposte to Empire's enforced paradise of self. For a cultural knowledge that began within the logic of consumer goods whose preordained obsolescence effects an inevitable death (picture if you will a cheap product gaining sentience only to remark, "only death is real") upon their objective livelihood, being asked to "Fornicate the Pyramid of Being" isn't a half-bad notion.

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