In this interview, we dive into the realm of art and subcultures with Alban Adam. Hailing from the eastern part of France and shaped by the vibrant surroundings of Paris, Alban’s unique background in art philosophy and semiotics has had a profound influence on his artistic endeavors.
What is your background and how does it influence your art?
I was born in the east of France but grew in Paris suburbs and studied art philosophy with a speciality in semantic and semiology at Paris VIII. I then gravitated towards fashion and worked since then closely with fashion creative helping them translate their vision and their worlds into communication systems and immersive events. From fashion show set design to creating the language of a brand there are many ways I apply what I learned along with my personal sensibility to different brands. Meanwhile I have been working on personal art projects over the last two decades, at the crossroads of music and art, with a hint of fashion probably.
Your recent installation, “Withstand the Fall of Time,” titled after Immortal’s immortal piece garnered attention in Palermo, Milan, and Paris. What was the inspiration behind this installation, and what message were you trying to convey?
Withstand the fall of time was conceived in collaboration with my good friend and photographer / director Jordan Hemingway. The installation is taking key elements from our shared sub-cultural background, our eagerness for all things dark from black metal to goth passing by pagan rituals and mediaeval history.
The pendulum of Foucault, a nod to Ecco’s historical fiction novel, was a starting point for us, where science becomes magic and how the relentless movement of time is here right in front of our eyes. With a pendulum of chain hoisted above an ‘improved’ Warlock guitar, the chain grazes the cords at each passage of time, creating a dark yet enveloping sound. One dear friend attended the Paris event that took place at 35/37 thanks to Adrian Joffe from Comme Des Garçons, dubbed it ‘black metal zen’ and it is like the glove that fits. The foreboding movement of the encen’s burner in the centre of the church or the frightening cut throat blade moving back and forth over poor adventurers in grave robber films are also elements taken in consideration when we were thinking the process of these pieces. The guitar pendulum surrounded by a circle of speakers, reminiscing Celtic raised stones added an extra ritual approach to the process, the back and forth, the hypnotising sound, the pagan surrounding are different activation of ritual of creed.
What role does symbolism and rituals play in your approach?
It’s very present, in an overwhelming way, I see rituals as celebration of the symbols, some others call it prayer time I guess. Losing yourself in a repetitive movement, into a repetition of words are key themes in religious celebrations, from pagan to magic, from different organised systems of belief, its a path to go beyond, into something that is ultimately bigger than you, into the void hopefully.
In your opinion, how do subcultures, like the goth, impact mainstream culture and influence artistic expression today compared to the past?
I think goth and other subcultures have always impacted their surroundings, they are like small streams, packed with signs and symbols, permeating into the main river of our cultural landscapes, into our consciousness even. It happened before and it will happen again. Maybe the impact is now less easy to spot as clearly as it was before but doesn’t every new generation say the same thing? Maybe it has more to do with the speed of information, the faster it goes the less we can spot the details that might have been way more obvious in the 80s and then in the 2000s. Whoever proclaims the death of subculture only asserts his blindness to their new forms.
You are part of the “Sissies of Mercy” duo project. Could you share more about this project?
It’s another project I do with Jordan. Our passion for goth music, and that encompass a lot of genres, is something that really brought us together but we have of course a very different approach to it, from different generation and from different geolocation, we have gathered because I could not stand another Beyonce and co DJ set at every single fashion parties. I respect music that is not mine, maybe not free jazz I have to admit, but anyway, we realised that if we don’t play our music at the fashion parties then no one else would, and the Sissies of Mercy were born. We played in Paris and Milan, at Marni and Vyner Article parties and even once on a boat. Covid and the lockdown and geographical distance has slowed us down in this last year but I think we are back on the tracks, separately and together. The Sissies are undead obviously. I previously co-director a short film in goth culture with Jordan for nowness, titled: Anatomy of Goth
Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a creative consultant for fashion and luxury brands like Balenciaga, Blumarine and 1017 Alyx 9SM?
It was actually a pretty simple journey from understanding an artistic approach to being a wordsmith in a clear strategy. It feels that since a young age I always knew how to do it and indeed I started at 20 years old or even before but some of that time is a little blurry now. Every job has a different approach and I luckily work mostly with people I have known for decades and that gives me a way of knowing what is needed before it is. Taking a creative vision and applying it to a whole ecosystem of a brand, a retail system, a fashion show, a visual campaign, a publishing project or more is the main part of what I have been doing for over 20 years now and it’s been pretty fulfilling so far.
Can you discuss any upcoming projects or collaborations that you’re particularly excited about?
These days I’m working on my upcoming installation : Talons of Creed at the occasion of the third takeover of the Mandrake hotel by Anticlone Gallery. Curated by Sade English and Maria Abramenko in London from the 9th till 15th October with my installation and actions happening on, Friday the 13th, in total obviousness eh eh.
For this work, I am looking back at the idea of creating a new ritual, like with Withstand the fall of time, there is a proto religious feeling to it, bringing an ancient ritual into a new set of belief. I don’t really like to describe something before it is actualised in reality but Talons of Creed looks at the Central European tradition of nail trees or nagel baum that were a popular occurrence in the dark Middle Ages. The significance of this ritualist endeavour is lost on us but some may believe it is a pagan induced version of ex voto, symbols that have lost their significance in the mist of times, allowing a new wave of meaning for it.
The repetitive nailing of a single log or tree trunk, a trance inducing action, is also a reminder of the passage of time and the layers of belief and superstition added to an otherwise common act.