Behemoth stun NYC with subversive exhibition, ‘Thou Art Darkest’
Upon opening the booklet that comes with Behemoth’s new LP, I Loved You At Your Darkest, the reader is met with three revealing words: “Say your prayers.”
If there were ever a phrase to describe the Polish black-metal giants, it would be that one. It is also a perfect representation of the band’s new traveling art exhibition, Thou Art Darkest, that has been touring with them in support of the new record.
On Nov. 3, Last Rites Gallery in Manhattan played host to one of Behemoth’s only two exhibitions that would take place in the U.S. (the other will be held in Los Angeles Nov. 25).
At this exclusive invitation/RSVP-only event, fans and industry heads got the rare opportunity to walk through the album’s artwork in a three-dimensional space. Renaissance-inspired photography and Hellenistic sculpture took on gothic and gorey qualities to visually encapsulate the unholy nature of their music.
“I’ve always thought that the artistic potential of I Loved You At Your Darkest needed to be extended and expanded to a bigger form,” vocalist and guitarist Adam “Nergal” Darski says. “I decided to expand that idea of the record and build it up to something that can be absorbed in a different way, rather than going to the regular heavy metal show, or just listening to the records in your home.”
“I decided to expand that idea of the record and build it up to something that can be absorbed in a different way, rather than going to the regular heavy metal show, or just listening to the records in your home.” —Adam “Nergal” Darski
Making the visual component of their storytelling as vivid and important as the auditory experience gives their art a life of its own. The multimedia approach for this gallery, established by visual artists Sylwia Makris and Tomasz Gornicki, transcends temporal and cultural lines as well. Christian history and tradition meet contemporary ideas and forms in Thou Art Darkest, a combination that Darski uses to interpret the world around him.
“The Hellenic civilization is the very cradle of the European civilization,” Darski asserts, “but Christianity took it over. It’s basically in my genes to some extent, and I just use it—it’s a tool. Every person that is born in this environment is being handed this tool called religion. You can either drop it later on, throw it away or you can use it. Most people use it pretty mindlessly because [they] are told to. I just decided to use this tool against dogmas and doctrines that I stand in opposition [of]. I am using their ingredients to fight the obscurity.”
To do this, the band members took the places of iconic Christian figures. In doing so, they challenge what they stood for and what they still represent to this day. Behemoth occupy and subvert the roles of figures such as Jesus Christ and his apostles, the pope and St. Peter to turn the traditional narrative on its head (pun most definitely intended) and to send a new message: What if the stories we’ve been told by religion were different? And what happens when we oppose them?
Another way Behemoth accomplished this task was by partnering with the most unconventional-looking model in fashion, Melanie Gaydos. The model has a rare genetic disorder that stunted her facial development. She takes the female lead in this exhibition, and in doing so further spars with traditional conceptions of beauty.
“Melanie is a sweetheart,” Darski says. “She is such a unique person, and she became our muse when making this stuff.”
A few daggers, swords and pools of blood later, the band’s vision became a reality. “It wasn’t easy,” Darski concludes, “but we pulled it off. It took us a lot of effort. [There were] a lot of people involved, and a lot of strategies logistics wise [and] money wise to make it happen, but we did [it], and it was a great success.”
Check out some photos of the exhibit below.
[Photos by: Taylor Markarian]