Fiona Banner

Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press is artist in residence throughout 2020/21. Banner often works under the moniker of The Vanity Press, the imprint she established in 1997 with her book The Nam. Her work centres on the problems and possibilities of language, both written and metaphorical. She has published many works, some in the form of books, some sculptural, some performance based. In 2009 she issued herself an ISBN number and registered herself as a publication under her own name. Humour, conflict and language are at the core of her work.

The Retrospective Has Been Cancelled

To kick-off her site research, Banner hand painted the billboard hoarding nestled within the woodland. Week by week adding new letters and words to form the phrase ‘The Retrospective Has Been Cancelled’. The letters were not painted sequentially, with Banner instead forming short concrete poems from the letters available: “A Bee”; “The Has Been”; The Rose Has Been Led”. The phrase The Retrospective Has Been Cancelled addresses the hubris associated with grand ‘retrospective’ exhibition making in traditional galleries and museums. The fallacy of ‘looking back’ with objectivity, the mythologizing of history that is the consequence. It’s a call to re-imagine the future of exhibitions and public art in the post-covid landscape and ongoing climate crisis where outdoor spaces such as this nature reserve become ever more important. Over the duration of the billboard commission Banner has also been making a series of artwork interventions inside the nature reserve, exploring what art making can be outside of the gallery space; not just depicting nature, but in tune with nature, accessible to the human visitors but also the foxes, the cats, the worms that call the reserve their home.

Klang Full Stop

Klang Full Stop is a 2-tonne granite sculpture in the shape of a giant full stop (from the font Klang). It is installed at Phytology as a touch stone for conversations around the environment crisis. On Monday 5th October Banner & Greenpeace delivered Klang onto the doorstep of Westminster, London. The coordinates for DEFRA are engraved on the side of the sculpture. This action intended to send a clear message to George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, calling out the UK Government’s failure to protect Britain’s most sensitive marine areas. Klang is part of a triptych. The remaining two Full Stop sculptures, Peanuts & Orator, were deployed as an installation in the Dogger Bank marine protected area, the stretch which once connected Britain to continental Europe thousands of years ago. The action completed a new area of almost 50 square miles developed by Greenpeace to be off-limits to destructive bottom trawling. Campaigners and the artist have pledged to remove the artworks if the UK Government makes a credible commitment to immediately ban industrial fishing from the Dogger Bank and all of the UK’s offshore Marine Protection Areas. “Language is the medium of treaties, argument, debate and agreement. The Full Stop sculptures are anti-texts. They are symbols of language on the precipice that are blown-up, made physical and confrontational. The Full Stops symbolise an impasse and crisis in language. They highlight the slipperiness of communication in a time of polarised rhetoric during which the term post-truth is common vernacular. In this instance, the disjunction between what a marine protected area stands for and the reality of what is happening in those areas. It makes those agreements absurd. It represents a rupture and demands a new approach.

The Squirrel’s Heartbeat

Throughout Autumn and Winter Fiona began recording ‘The Squirrel’s Heartbeat’, a series of conversations ruminating on the environment, art and activism. Contributors included Lucia Pietroiusti, Zoé Whitley, Omar Kholief, Adelaide Bannerman, Johanna Gibbons, Phillip Green, Mel Evans, Heather Ackroyd & Michael Smythe.
The episodic artwork has been published incrementally on Instagram from December 2020 onwards. The series eloquently explores a broad range of topics pertinent to the current times, while sensitively documenting and celebrating the unique brilliance of Bethnal Green Nature Reserve. Check out the full series here.

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