Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Adam Void

For this edition of Fan Mail, Adam Void of North Carolina has been selected from our worthy reader submissions. Two artists are featured each month—the next one could be you! If you would like to be considered, please submit your website link to with ‘Fan Mail’ in the subject line.

The tape fourtrack brought multi-tracking into the bedroom studio and accessing the tools for making okay-sounding songs is not hard. If you have bad equipment to begin with, then tape sounds pretty good. Fresh clean chrome tape sounds great. Hi-fi VHS sounds really great. Mastering to tape from fourtrack is the natural choice and the avenue of distribution is tape if you’re into all that duping and labeling. Then you can bring your recordings to computer and alter digitally—maybe pipeline it further through that eighth-inch jack then try to resuscitate some lost mid-range with garage-band filters. Tape labels are rampant today and most of my friends seem to still have tape decks, but also CD players in their cars, MacBook Pros, and smart phones. This time of technological transition is forefront in art making too—some push for the latest new-media and others prefer to examine the vestiges of innovation.

Physical reality has a mystique to it, a sentimentality of the lives of others—outside of the data-driven world, touching objects, having objects, smells, covers, texts, papers, pens. Not having a lot of fancy stuff, you learn to lag technology. Then you get a taste for the retro, and the underappreciated articles of culture. An obsession with increasingly-obsolete tape equipment is, perhaps, a love of the imperfect—hiss, fuzz, and piercing treble. And maybe it’s a critique of perceived perfection almost achieved by digital. And the analog vs. digital debates goes on. “By any means necessary,” says Adam Void quoting Sartre or Malcom X.

A deep archive of video, paintings, photographs, zines, etc. is what interested me in Adam’s website—a collection that reveals a persona. Our e-mail exchange is about as follows:

CD: Living in Charleston, SC and having explored the south, it’s fun to see videos like Santee River Mythic Christmas South Carolina. Your rejection of crisp imagery is also appealing to me like in Babel Code. What is your sound setup and what methods of recording do you use?

AV: I create my sounds from vintage toy keyboards, a circuit-bent 80’s era drum machine, a police scanner and walkie-talkies. I record to cassette tape through a four-channel Tascam fourtrack recorder. My video is edited in camera, by recording over previously recorded segments until they visually match the soundtrack’s rhythms. I film onto VHS-C tape and transfer them to digital by placing the camera’s display screen in front of a computer’s webcam. All shots are live and not taken from a television. Past Present Future NOW is a name I used for my performances from 2009 until late 2011. I have recorded a full-length tape and multiple videos under that name.

CD: Some people might ask why you would release music on tape or be captivated with old technologies.

AV: Analog technologies such as film, audio and video tape produce a warmth of tone which aren’t possible when using digital technologies. Digital technology involves capturing small samples of sound or image, and recombining them to produce the final product. Despite current high sample rates, digital technology cannot completely recreate natural waveforms in the way of analog technology. My use of analog recording methods is both an aesthetic and a technical decision.

Adam Void

CD: Most graffiti has a secret source but you are connecting your identity to the art—or maybe you’ve built an identity for creating art. Using the name “void” has a certain meaning, but maybe it’s just an embellished lack of meaning. The tent symbol seems meaningful (a tentative space to fill, an efficient traveler) but also reminds me of the shape of a capital A or in it’s extended version AVOID.

AV: The truth is definitely closer to “I have built an identity for creating art.” Adam = Man, Void = Nothing. Over the last few years, I have carefully worked to communicate the meanings behind my art instead of pushing them into the void. The tents are loaded with meaning. From refugees and the homeless to environmentalists and protesters, each tent represents someone who has removed themselves from an understood comfort.

CD: Your photographs have a color and style of cheap 35mm cameras or polaroid, adding flatness and contrast, sometimes a bit overblown and flashed. Chattanooga to Occupy and now living in Asheville but lived in Brooklyn, South Carolina, Baltimore—what have you collected about your locations?

AV: The first images come from a multi-state tour through the American South, shot with a Fuji Instax 210 Instant Camera. The second group of images come from early November in Zuccotti Park during Occupy Wall Street, shot with disposable cameras containing various speeds and brands of film. While I did stay at the camp on and off for over two weeks, the pictures remain tourist photography. They were shot haphazardly and are a represented few from a much larger archive.

South Carolina was a great place to grow up. In the 90’s, Columbia had a unique and intense hardcore and experimental music scene. I participated in Charleston’s graffiti boom during the early 2000’s and decided to move to New York in order to progress my understanding of the art form. While in Brooklyn during the last half of the 2000’s, I got to witness what happens to an over-inflated art scene when the economic bottom falls out. DIY galleries appeared in tiny apartments; Street Art embraced non-saleability; and I had the freedom to experiment with different mediums and controversial content. I moved to Baltimore in 2010 to attend graduate school. There, I was engulfed in the local noise scene and had the physical space to expand my work into installations and large-scale roller-based graffiti. I am just getting my feet on the ground here in Asheville, but I hope to reconnect with how my work exists in relation to physical space, architecture and nature environments.

Adam Void, Another Way 1

The found object college pieces titled Another Way, began as hitchhiking signs collected from my travels hopping freight trains in California, Oregon and Washington. Once back in Baltimore, I began noticing the signage on local bodegas as well as the cardboard signs of the local homeless. The final artwork didn’t take shape until the Occupation of Zuccotti Park. Once in the park, I collected protest signs from my fellow Occupiers. At that point I began mixing those worlds, small business, travelers, activists, and the homeless. The resulting works took the shape of the common struggles experienced between those groups.

Adam Void, Occupy or Die

CD: The Occupy or Die segmented snake reminds me of one of those toys that you buy at a Myrtle Beach gift shop (you hold its tail and it flows left and right in an S-shape) that has been broken apart—the mural could be read as a call to unify but also seems like a dismantling with an ax.

AV: The Occupy or Die piece is a re-imagining of Ben Franklin’s Join or Die illustration. It was meant to act as a request for the unification of the Occupy camps before they were systematically raided.

CD: What are the successes and struggles that you experienced with Occupy?

AV: I Occupied on-and-off at Zuccotti Park for the better part of three weeks. I first stayed in the park in early October, after the first Brooklyn Bridge Action. I would return for a couple of days each month to stay with my good friend, Rami Shamir, who’s a full-time Occupier. I went on many marches and was arrested for putting up posters related to the cause. I came back twice to continue my actions with the group during the Union Square Occupation. The major success of Occupy has been the political activation of a new generation of Americans. It gave a platform for millions who otherwise felt powerless in their lives. The major struggle is that many of our country’s oppressed still have not unified their actions and remain separated by race, religion and geography.

Adam Void, New Homes

Adam Void, Trust No 1

CD: Showing objects in decay, nature’s methods of decay and reuse—what is it about decay that is so captivating?

AV: Decay is the object’s natural state. “New” is a temporary and mostly manufactured condition. Why fight against this natural state?

Adam Void, Suicide Ride

CD: The clandestine rider is using a system that once was a great symbol of progress (like the interstate highway system); now he’s an outsider in the industrial landscape, mostly vacant.

AV: These struggles and experiences are essential to who I am. I rode freight trains for years before I began documenting and producing art from those travels. I get a majority of my food and my art materials from dumpstered sources. The dominant culture system produces an unsettling amount of waste. I am one of many new-century gleaners. We make use of what others consider useless and make beautiful what others consider ugly.

CD: You seem to enjoy using text to make jolting messages on worn material, such as No Income No Assets. Painting letters has joy to it–often writing is in haste without much attention to form.

AV: No Income No Assets is painted on a found mattress: skinned, stretched and then subtly altered. Graffiti, sign painting and signatures are some of the last few traces of humanity in written communication. I am at home with the imperfect and the strained. I utilize transitional tools of lettering as well, like typewriters, rub-on-letters, and vinyl stickers.

CD: Dreambook reminds me of the cover of a fashion or tabloid magazine—those publications always have these bombastic figures on the cover. Using numbers has the feeling of exactitude.

AV: The mini-zines are produced en masse and mostly mailed and given away (I sell some at Printed Matter and other art-book retailers for $1). I approach them as a visual poem. Each retains the same size and format restrictions, while the content comes from specific sources. I mine these sources for subconscious connections and visual appeal, keeping in mind the flattening that occurs with their photocopied reproduction.

CD: I cannot help but think of Jasper Johns, who spent his youth in the south, when viewing your work.

AV: Johns was a foundational influence, along with Rauschenberg, Brakhage and Raymond Pettibon. My current influences run the channel of “poor-art,” including Arte Povera, Tramp Art, American Folk Art, Art Brute, and Cy Twombly.

Adam Void is currently showing at the Hillyer Art Space in Washington DC until the end of the month. September will have an interview in The 22 Magazine, as well as four pieces with “No Dead Artists” at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery in New Orleans. In October, he’s doing an installation at the (e)merge Art Fair in Washington DC which will feature a new publication discussing the flaws of a two-party political system.