Fiona Banner The Naked Ear 17th November 2010 - 15th January 2011 Frith Street Gallery
Fiona Banner’s practice centres on the problems and possibilities of language, both written and metaphorical. From her ‘wordscapes’ to her use of found and transformed military aircraft, Banner juxtaposes the brutal and the sensual, performing an almost complete cycle of intimacy, attraction and alienation. In this exhibition the artist looks at how we mythologize history, and our willingness to be seduced by those myths.
The first work in the exhibition Tornado, is a large suspended bell. For Banner bells signify the simplest form of communication – an instrument that requires no music; a language without words, yet with multiple and conflicting meanings. The sculpture is cast from the rendered fuselage of a Tornado jet fighter – one of the most effective military aircraft of the past 30 years and aptly named after a destructive force of nature. Presented un-tuned the bell invites the viewer to physically engage with it; the resulting sound is a direct reflection of its form.
1909 – 2011 is another sculptural work, this time in the form of a four metre high stack of Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft book, the iconic compendium for the aeronautical industry. Collecting is a recurrent theme in Banner’s work, and she has compiled this collection over a period of twenty years. Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft represents a shared knowledge, beyond political and national boundaries. As a collection it embodies the history of manned flight and the development of an unwieldy military industry. Now as a very grounded yet slightly implausible tower the books have been transformed, through the simplest of means, from a library, list and collection into a piece of sculpture.
Banner has also reissued a largely forgotten science fiction novel written by Jane’s founder and publisher Fred T. Jane, in his early years. To Venus in Nine Seconds is published under her own imprint, The Vanity Press. Out of print for over a century, this absurdist fantasy represents an endlessly deferred future and reveals a complex relationship with the contents of the compendium to which Jane later dedicated his life.
Her fascination with the English language led the artist to re-examine how history has represented the Battle of Hastings, an event which had a profound impact on the development of modern English. Tracing the history of Britain’s military investment back to the fear of invasion, her large-scale wall drawing 1066 describes in words this decisive battle of England’s last invasion. The Bayeux Tapestry stands as the primary historical document of the event, in which the brutal engagement between the Normans and the Saxons unfolds like an early film. The tapestry was a propaganda triumph, which influences the way history depicts the invasion to this day. Acknowledging the absence of a major film depicting the battle, Banner uses it as a source for her work, drawing out the brutality in a language learnt from the visceral manipulations of a contemporary war movie.