At Re:publica 2018, Maya Indira Ganesh urged us to "not exit" in the face of the horror that is climate change. The only hope we now have, she claimed, is to stare the horror right in its face; giving up is a privilege. Those who will suffer the most from these changes, the weakened among us, cannot afford to give up and we must stand with them. The urge to look away is powerful though; we are programmed to avoid pain, by our biological nature and by our culture, which praises the sanitary and the easily digestible above all.
But there are parts of culture which not only allow a gaze that does not flinch away from mutilation and wastelands but celebrates that gaze. These parts of culture make their living from "shock value", that wrench in our gut when we are disgusted but can't look away. One of the most famous of these genres or movements is metal music. Emerging from the mid 70's to the mid 80's before taking the mainstream world of music by storm, metal has benefited from and utilized shock value to draw in its fan base.
This shock value was extracted from jilted musical sensibilities, religious heresy wholly embraced and more. But one of the more prolific vectors for generating this shock value was the body; disfigurement, the annihilation of mankind, the destruction of our planet, death, these have always been fruitful fields for metal to sow its fruit in. What can we learn from metal's vision of the future that mankind has wrought? How does the genre of music and the myriad of bands working within it face this future and try to make it their own? Is such a transformation even possible or is disgusted acquiescence all that metal can offer us?
During this talk, I will examine diverse examples of metal, its aesthetic and the role of climate change and human demise within it in order to ask the ultimate question: how should we conceptualize the coming catastrophe? Oh, and we'll also play some music way too loud.