Today, we’d like to introduce you to Terence Hannum, who makes art from cassette tapes!
Tell us about yourself, who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?
“I am an artist, musician and educator who lives in Baltimore. I play music solo and with the trio Locrian. I also teach Art Foundations at Stevenson University. For the last ten years or so my art has been about some aspect of sound and the visual arts that has recently culminated in using analog tape exclusively to make abstract collages and experimental sound installations.”
‘How did you get started doing what you do?
“Being a musician I gravitate toward analog gear, like oscillators, synthesizers and tape delays. I have this old tape delay made by Roland called a Space Echo and I have to replace the tape maybe every month if I want to use it live or for a recording. So about two years ago now, I was replacing the tape and while I was spooling the tape delay back into the machine just noticed the surface and thought maybe I could adhere it to another surface so I started testing out the tape, sticking it to things, peeling it off. Destroying it.”
What’s your inspiration?
“I am inspired by a lot of things, instruments and gear. Or old head cleaner cassettes, vintage blank tapes. There’s some great design elements with these objects. I read a lot of manuals on editing but I also listen to a lot of music, from people who founded tape music like Pierre Schaeffer and the GRM Studios to like William Burroughs and the cut-up or Throbbing Gristle, also contemporary musicians like Aaron Dilloway, William Basinski, Jason Lescaleet and Jason Zeh. Thinking about music in challenging ways can really make me think about the visual compositions differently. I also look to a lot of visual artists from all over, just try to find something new (to me), to learn at least what moves I make and inform them better.”
What is art to you?
“I always had a broad interpretation. To me it has to be challenging in some way with its material or subject matter. I just want to be challenged. That tends to make it a more intellectual thing for me, even if it is with something very physical (like the media as the specific set). Again I just want to think something new. When I was a teenager I saw an exhibition of Felix Gonzalez-Torres and it was probably the show that made me want to ale art, mainly because its skill was found in the ideas and aura of emotions that the pieces conjured. I liked thinking about them, maybe even more than looking at them. So I started studying a lot of art history and then maybe 4 years later started seriously trying to make art.”
What does your typical day look like?
“Well I am on summer break now so I have a bit more time each day to do work in my studio. But typically I get up really early and get my kids to where they need to go, then teach a class, meet with students and pick up my kids. I typically do a short studio session in the late afternoon, and then after everyone goes to bed I work maybe 4-5 hours in my studio. I am a night owl so I stay up late and make work, or record music. Answer interviews and apply for grants. I have to make something everyday or else I get really irritated.”
How do you keep motivated?
“I tend to work in large series, on paper or panel. This kind of makes work for me and keeps me thinking, I’ll make certain formal or material aims. And try and make as many as I can within that system. Until it gets exhausted or births a new idea. So my motivation is very cyclical.”
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
“Obviously there is the material, this cassette material that I hope can raise something that has become obsolescent to the fore. I really am interested in transformation so I also hope that this material choice is surprising and can become something else, maybe like paint in a way. I think of them as collages so I often think about Max Ernst or Joseph Cornell and just how they were using stuff people threw away and that power of the object or image in a new combination can be very evocative. I also began the work thinking about how it would engage with abstraction and this minimalist, hard edge, I have always wanted to make monochromes but never felt right. This is as close as I have come.”
What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
“Be Patient, don’t stop making work.”
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
“The sculptor Richard Rezac was an advisor of mine in graduate school and a few years after school he and I were talking and he told me to be prepared when the spotlight isn’t on. Even when you have no shows or no one seems to be into what you’re doing, just keep the practice going. That was some good advice I think, make art for the long haul.”
Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
“Have something outside of art that you are passionate about or that holds your interest. It can be anything literature, science, baseball, heavy metal, whatever. But often times you’ll get ideas or just have your mind engaged in ways it can make space for new ideas with your art.”
What are your thoughts on art school?
“I never attended an undergraduate program in the arts, I went to a small liberal arts college and studied Religion and Philosophy in addition to Studio Art – so I don’t have that background exactly. But my graduate school was at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, so that environment when I was older and better at going to school was amazing. I could do whatever I wanted and learn from some amazing people and have all this media at my disposal. However I am an advocate for a good liberal arts background, I know a lot of art schools are changing and incorporating that into their course structure. Anyway I don’t think it is the best place or the worst place. I certainly know students who do well there, and students who finish at great art schools and have no plan of what to do next, and it isn’t exactly cheap. I often advise students to figure it out in undergrad then wait, live your life, and specialize in graduate school when you’re ready.”
Have any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
“Using larger tapes like 2” reels from recording studios on larger multi panel pieces.”
What’s your dream project?
“Working with the INA GRM would be interesting. Or Dolby Labs.”
What art supplies do you use?
“Cassette Tape, Magnetic Tape, Glue, Adhesive, Leader Tape, Splicing Tape and that’s it really.”
How could the art industry become better in your opinion?
“As the father of a pretty awesome five year old daughter I often think about the problems in our society with gender inequality. I know we like to pretend maybe the art world is immune from some of these but I have taught and currently teach courses where 70-100% are all women, yet that percentage is essentially reversed in the industry. Look at a gallery roster, and it will be 60-70% male. So I think a sensitivity towards gender inequality could definitely make it better. I know I often ask how does the education system contribute to this?”