Fiona Banner deploys the translation of image into language, the transformation of the spoken word into sculptural material and distortions in scale as strategies to unearth the layers behind image and text – the discourses that are inherent in linguistic and visual communication, both on a conscious and subconscious level.
Her works capture the point where language is unable to resolve contradictions, where conflicting emotions – attraction and repulsion, fascination and horror – resist subsumption under a single linguistic term. Banner invents precise and powerful images that contain inconsistent reactions arising from our confrontation with extreme and existential situations, often experienced second-hand through the media. In doing so, Banner touches upon taboos and conventions set-up by gender-specific, social, political and moral laws, which often impede or suppress our insight into and acknowledgment of the ambivalent nature of one’s feelings and emotions.Read more
In her obsessive book project THE NAM – a translation of block-buster war movies into her own language – Banner previously researched the ways in which war and violence are depicted in the mass media and the point where words collapse in the face of these representations. Banner’s most recent installation “Parade” again highlights the ambivalent reception of media coverage on war as well as the resultant processes of turning “war toys” into demons and fetishes. “Parade” is a squadron of war jets shrunken to the domestic size of the model. Hanging from the gallery’s ceiling as one fragile installation, “Parade” consists of 170 miniatures of all the military aircraft currently in use globally. They are presented in the harmless format in which the weapons are carried into our living rooms via the gothic narratives broadcast on CNN and other news channels. With their homogenising colour scheme, without further identification of nationality or ideology, Banner’s airplanes represent prototypes that kindle a fascination with the machinery of war despite the ethical or political reservations of the viewer. The artist does not intend to make judgments or channel the viewer’s perception. Rather, she admits her own ambiguous fascination by dedicating herself to the time-consuming and laborious construction work of the model. Like no other vehicle, it trivializes and plays down the fatal reality of the weaponry through the illusion of control suggested by the model kit.
Without further comment from the artist, her text work also eloquently observes the manner in which weapons are turned into heroic fetish objects: in a kind of sky map Banner lists all known nicknames for the aircraft presented in her installation. Most of these nicknames represent pronounced masculine, dominant traits or stem from animals that extremely aggressive or sexual behaviour is generally attributed to. Banner invokes a language that recalls animistic ritual and that functions as an outlet for the projections of those who invent and employ those names.
The exhibition is completed by three large-scale sculptures made out of original parts sourced from fighter jets. Abstracted and alienated by small formal interventions these sculptures do not reveal their origin at first glance. They reveal themselves as elegant, autonomous sculptures as much as objects that trigger conflicting emotions in the viewer.
(Text: Astrid Mania)