By Sean Gray
Terence Hannum is best known for his work in the Avant mental group Locrian, but Hannum has been doing visual art for years. We discuss his new exhibit “Veils,” Sociology, and why metal is such an influence.
BYT: Can you explain why metal has had such a direct influence on Veils?
Terence: It is a starting point, definitely, and it influences all of my work. I would say “why” because to me it has, like many subcultures, its own set of values as to what is sacred and profane.
As opposed to other subcultures, metal gives off a very dark vibe — is that also part of the appeal?
Definitely. I am interested in a lot of subcultures that use music as an essential part of how they identify themselves. Be it reggae, dub or skinhead culture. But metal tends to wallow in a very dark subject and kind of invert what is positive.
Can you explain the process of creating this exhibit?
I was invited by Diane DiSalvo to exhibit in the space and kind of ran through two ideas. “Veils” is a show I have been wanting to do for a while. I’ve been drawing these headbanging heads in voids for about two years, and over the last year or so, I started making collages as studies. But to me something was missing. I turned to these mirrors as a way to open up the drawings and the theme. So parallel to the drawings are mirrors — they kind of catch things — then another drawing and a set of collages.
Speaking of mirrors, you’ve said: ““Mirrors are key elements in our superstitions around death, by being covered or avoided during a time of mourning.” Can you elaborate on that further?
It’s similar to the anonymous heads, covered by hair. Like wraiths in a void. Mirrors tend to be covered or avoided or flipped around during times of mourning in many cultures. There are superstitions about the mirror as a conjuring device and about mirrors facing each other – that they can generate a void, a space where there was none. They are also cut to the specific size of the drawing they are either across from or next to like a shadow.
Would it be fair to say that this exhibit is almost a sociological study in terms of how we choose to identify ourselves?
It starts there, definitely. I tend to use sociology as a lens to gain deeper meaning into subcultures and ways with which to pull out the similarities between subcultures and the broader general culture.
Would you then argue that music is the key to knowing who we are in some ways?
Oh most definitely. I think without music there is no ritual.
Do you think these rituals help or hinder us in metal culture?
I think they’re essential to all rituals, whether it’s at a church or to get more sociological the tribe. I think in a more agnostic sense, we are a culture that has no real mystical dialogue — even in more orthodox religious settings, and music can provide that for us. It can gather a congregation, generate relics (records, clothing, etc.) and fulfill many of the functions that religion once held. But it’s also hard, because music and its codes can be everywhere at all times.
So basically you worked with sociological theory structuralism in creating Veils?
Yes, I’ve been very influenced by some of them. Emile Durkheim was a big one for me, as was Claude Levi-Strauss. I enjoyed reading them. Victor Turner was also a massive influence on me; he focuses a lot on Ritual itself.
Now you’re primarily known for the music you make, be it solo and with Locrian — has being in a band helped you expand your knowledge about rituals?
Well it can give you some insight, and it can also just become part of it. I think it is very easy for music to mean nothing, but it can still engage its audience in a ritual through performances, albums, or the kind of meta-experience of who they are via social media.
You bring up a good point about social media — how do you think that underscores ritual?
I think for some it can be a part of it. I mean, look at where hip-hop is today; essentially it exists as a social experiment. There are the songs, but now there are also the Twitter accounts and the mixtapes — like Odd Future, for example.
What current artists inspire you in terms of art or music? Who do you think is doing interesting work?
As far as music, I still kind of geek out on a lot of German music from the 1970′s. I’d say that recent Gunter Schikert LP on Bureau B was a pleasant surprise — but that’s a reissue. The new Swans record is amazing, too. In terms of newer bands, I tend to put my money and time where my mouth is. I’m working on Land of Decay with Andre from Locrian, and I would say the Gates and Ithi releases have also really held my attention this year.
In visual art, I’ve been super impressed with Ari Marcopolous’ 52-week publication series. I am amazed by the quality of his work. I’ve also had a painting crush on Michael Borremans and keep coming back to the collages of John Stezaker. Both artists engage the picture as this surreal space and just provide so many surprises.
What do you have coming up after this exhibit?
I’ll be at the New York Art and Book Fair at MoMA PS1, and I’ll be in a group exhibition of publications the Netherlands soon. I also have new art publications coming out on Accidental Guest Recordings and Zeitgeists Publishing.
Terrence’s Veils exhibit will be displayed at Stephenson University until October 6th.