Legendary artist Banks Violette in conversation with Maria Abramenko on art, music and current projects along with a special playlist curated by him for our latest Soundscapes release.
“Death metal, ritual murder, and teenage suicide are starting points for Banks Violette”. That is what I found about you on internet. Was wondering if you have any comments on this?
Inasmuch as those are instances of faith/belief metastasising, I’d agree with that. I’m not drawn to tragedies as isolated events. Still, there are instances when an individual or a group becomes subsumed within a narrative with tragic outcomes, and that’s something I’ve always been particularly interested in—sort of a chicken/egg distinction, but it’s a pretty important one.
How did you start making art?
I’ve always made objects. It is just how I relate to the world: I just make things.
In one of your interviews, you say art is toxic; could you please explain?
I don’t remember saying that, so I’d need to know the context. Possibly that connects to the previous question. For example, I’m not interested in Goethe’s “Sorrows of Young Werther” as a thing unto itself. Still, I am interested in how it, as a cultural artefact, can become a vehicle for a seemingly irrational belief or devotion, which could fairly be described as “toxic”, at least in its consequence.
Is there a conceptual importance of specific materials you use in your installations? Do you use to work site-specific?
More broadly, the idea of a “signature” material in post-minimal sculpture has been interesting (lead, felt, etc.) – certainly in the use of salt, as an example.
Salt is pretty inextricably connected to Robert Smithson. His first use of salt was in relation to an exhibition in my hometown. So, just as one specific example, my use of salt is intended to be evocative of something art historical, autobiographical, in addition to the broader/ metaphorical resonance of that one material. As far as site-specificity goes, while I’ll scale sculptures or installations to a specific context, they’re ultimately intended to work in different spaces equally. It is one of the reasons so much of the work I’ve made employs modular construction like scaffolding or staging.
We are all very curious; what music are you listening to?
I’ve been wallowing in older hardcore and punk stuff lately, maybe as an exercise in nostalgia. Or possibly because I seem to be on the receiving end of fewer eye rolls in my home if I listen to that stuff. I haven’t been listening to much newer music recently since I’ve got two teenage stepdaughters, and they think what I listen to is “scary”.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, I’ve gotten back into making drawings, which I have an absolute love/hate relationship with, while also trying to work out some larger sculptural projects for the future.