Skip to main content

Artist-Writer-Artist: Fiona Banner

Fiona Banner is an artist who takes text as her medium in a way that some artists use clay, or paint. In the 90s she produced a 1,000 page book called Nam, which was the result of her sitting and watching, back to back,  four Vietnam movies - Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, and the Deer Hunter -  and writing down what she saw, in real time.


NAM
, Fiona Banner

Black Hawk Down, Fiona Banner

Banner has also created word drawings where she sets up an easel before a nude model, but instead of depicting the model with lines, she writes a description of what she sees, and how she is experiencing what she sees. Sometimes she does this in front of a small audience, turning the action into a form of performance.

This is an artist who definitely writes at length, but not in a way that encourages prolonged reading of what she has actually written. A phrase that crops up a lot in interviews and writing about Banner's writing is "frustrating narrative expectations." Mission accomplished. Very often I find myself giving up after a few hundred words, and I just stand back to look at the whole piece, which resolves itself once more into a shape, a form, an image, a pictorial element. This is no doubt the point, which means we are back in the realm of meta-art, of irony, of commentary upon the act, rather than the act of writing (and reading) being a shared space in which to recreate an experience in words.

More thoughts on this later.

 Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.


A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.

A List of Every Drink in Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises"

I first read Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" when I was a teenager, and immediately fell in love with it. For the last couple of years, I have had the incredible privilege of teaching a class based around Hemingway in Paris -- while living and teaching in Paris itself, close to the Boulevard du Montparnasse, where most of the action of the novel's first half takes place.

Of the many things that one notices about the book, the colossal amount of drinking is something that stands out. These people didn't just drink like fish: they drank like whales, as if the ocean they swam in was alcohol and they had set themselves the task of drinking the seas of the world dry of it. During my read-through of the book before class started last year, I tried to underline every mention of drink in the book. And now, purely in the interests of science, I am listing the entire menu of booze mentioned directly by name. Some preliminary observations:
Most of this is…