Mapping and interpreting the historical specificity of a particular site, Maddie Leach’s practice offers testament to communities, events and histories. Her project for GIBCA delves into black metal subculture in Sweden. Leach examined the story of the band Dissection from Strömstad, who became recognised as black metal pioneers in the 1990s. As typical within black metal culture, the group’s identity adopted images and symbols of darkness associated with the occult and the satanic.On 22 July 1997, the band’s lead singer Jon Nödtveidt and his friend murdered Josef Ben Meddour, a homosexual, Algerian man, in Keillers Park in Gothenburg. He had been shot two times and was found near a stone water tower. Described as a homophobic hate crime, both men eventually confessed and were imprisoned for the murder. The lead singer was released in 2004 and reformed Dissection before committing suicide in 2006.The title of Leach’s project, The Grief Prophesy, references Dissection’s first demo The Grief Prophesy from 1991. Leach has collaborated with the artist Kristian Wåhlin (‘Necrolord’), who produced album covers for Dissection, asking him to create an image of the water tower in Keillers Park. Here we also see the Gothenburg Mosque, symbolising the pluralisation of beliefs and backgrounds of people in Sweden over recent decades. This image appears on the cover of a new vinyl recording containing slowed-down versions of a Dissection instrumental called Into Infinite Obscurity, performed on hurdy-gurdy and oud. Hurdy-gurdy (vevlira) is an instrument associated with the kind of Swedish folk music that nationalistic parties promote as ‘Swedish culture’. The oud is an instrument originating in North Africa and the Middle East. As a form of lament, these elongated recordings sit in relation to ideas of continued invisibility and memory that underpin The Grief Prophesy project. An unrealised part of the project was based in Keillers Park itself. Leach observed a roughly drawn inverted pentagram, marking the water tower site, on a public map depicting key features in the park. As a response to this coded gesture, the artist proposed to engrave a small pentagram on the water tower’s entrance. The pentagram, a symbol common to different religions and folklore is, to many, inextricably linked to satanic aesthetics and the occult. However here the pentagram was to be configured the ‘opposite’ way round, in which it is associated with notions of protection, banishing, harmony and justice – intended as a quiet counter-action to mark 20 years since the murder of Meddour. Permission was declined for the proposal.


Maddie Leach is based in Gothenburg Commissioned for GIBCA 2017 with support from Swedish Postcode Lottery and Valand Academy, Gothenburg Univeristy. 

Courtesy the artist