Study #13 looks in depth at the work Every Word Unmade: a series of 26 metre-high neon letters, together comprising an upper-case alphabet, hand made by artist Fiona Banner in 2007. This first presentation of Every Word Unmade in London is accompanied by a selection of Banner’s works using language and light.


Fiona Banner, Every Word Unmade, 2007, installation view at Power Plant, Toronto in 2007. David Roberts Collection, London. Courtesy the artist

The installation opens with Neon Full Stop (1997), a moment of characteristic humour and a pause in which to reflect on Banner’s practice together with publications from the Vanity Press. Also founded in 1997, The Vanity Press is an integral part of Banner’s practice, producing books and exploring the act of publishing as a form of performative sculpture – tattoos, neons, tombstones, trousers all became ‘publications’ by virtue of ISBN registration. The Vanity Press (2013) is one of a selection of works hand made by Banner herself in neon. The letters and digits of an ISBN number are imperfectly wrought through the laborious process of bending molten glass tubes by hand, and then published under the title of The Vanity Press. The vast central work of the display,Every Word Unmade (2007), assembles the entire Latin alphabet, so containing, as the title implies, the possibility of infinite anagrams and narratives.

I was thinking about a kind of unmaking of language. As if you could makeevery word, or story imaginable, from these 26 letters. All the potential is there, but none of the words. The fragile wobbly letters, a byproduct of incrementally, inexpertly bending the glass – then the electrical circuit pumping the gas through, make it like one big, constant stutter…words about to be made or unmade. Fiona Banner, 2007.


Fiona Banner in neon workshop making Every Word Unmade, 2007. David Roberts Collection, London. Courtesy the artist

Language is also embodied in written descriptions of undressing and undressed women such as Striptease (2003) and Silver Nude (2011). Captured by Banner whilst watching a film scene and during life drawing session respectively, they point to the performativity of language, an act of translation which is repeated in Mirror (2007) as the model (actress Samantha Morton) encounters her own portrait for the first time while reading it aloud to a live audience.


Fiona Banner, Every Word Unmade (The Bastard Word), 2007, detail in Fiona Banner studio in 2005. David Roberts Collection, London. Courtesy the artist

Study #13: Every Word Unmade
David Roberts Art Foundation (DRAF)
17-18 Golden Square, London W1F 9JJ
29 January - 5 March 2016