Bad Vibes

The National Library of Norway, Oslo

An immersive exhibition exploring Black Metal

Exhibition Design, Theatre, Graphic Design

The exhibition explores the musical phenomenon of Norwegian Black Metal, with a shifting scenography through different thematic sections.

The entrance area uses the idea of the forest, in the form of full-height gauze walls with a black-and-white forest print, to create an immersive, moody and atmospheric portal into the exhibition. The section draws inspiration from Norwegian nature and the role of its ancient forests in the country’s myths.

Visitors weave through the forest area and into the Black Music Box, where the walls are clad, floor-to-ceiling, with charcoal-hued spiked foam panels of the type used to provide acoustic insulation in recording studios. There’s an immediate shift in emphasis here to the music itself, with an invitation to ‘unprejudiced listening’ on the part of the visitor.

The following space examines the link between the iconography of black metal and the expression and symbolism of religious and fantasy-genre texts and illustration, with large-scale prints of illustrations by Gustave Doré and Theodor Kittelsen, whilst a room inset features an old, graffiti-covered door from a notorious record shop called ‘Helvete’.

The next area looks at the way people come together with a similar outlook on life, often from their bedrooms, including a bedroom set-up showing a typical teenage black metal fan’s personal space with desk, chair, wall and shelf, full of books, magazines, posters and artefacts, plus a band-name-covered jacket slung casually over the chair.

An interactive area is all about sound recording and looks at the classics of Norwegian black metal. Here, the visitor becomes the producer, able to enhance or decrease the sound levels of drums, bass, guitars and vocals via a studio-style mixing desk. The section’s aesthetic pays homage to the real-life Grieghallen Studio in Bergen through its floor-to-ceiling timber panelling.

The final space is a minimal and sombre space, that reflects on the terrible events of 1992-94, when the sub-cult of black metal went overground in the most sinister of ways, with church burnings and a number of murders and deaths. Visitors can look back at TV segments and news clippings of the time that try and say something about what happened and its consequences.


The National Library of Norway


Oslo, Norway


Exhibition Design
Graphic Design


Light Bureau - Lighting Design

photography and film: Gareth Gardner