Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press
Patronato Salesiano Leone XIII, Venice
19 April - 22 May 2022
21st March 2022 - The exhibition Pranayama Typhoon by Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press coincides with the 59th Venice Biennale. Its title combines the word ‘pranayama’, a breathing technique that dates to ancient India, with the word ‘typhoon’ – both an overwhelming and increasingly frequent natural phenomenon and the name of a state-of-the-art fighter plane. The exhibition will be held in a basketball court within a converted church at Patronato Salesiano, a community playground in Castello, Venice, which is a short walk from the Giardini della Biennale.
The focus of the exhibition is the film, Pranayama Organ (2021), which features two full-scale inflatable military decoy aircrafts, a Typhoon and a Falcon. Stuck in a combative bind, they yearn for another future, as they play out an unrequited desire for intimacy not conflict. As the protagonists enact a dream of emasculating the tools of conflict, they recognise their own demise.
The film begins at dawn; the two aircrafts slowly inflate on the beach, coming to life like two longslumbering creatures. The setting of the film then shifts to a grassy precipice, where two figures, including the artist, are dressed as fighter planes. Birdlike, human and automaton, the figures dance around each other in a darkly comical ritual of courtship and combat. The location of the film, a coastal area on the English Channel between a submerged petrified forest under the seabed, and an eroding cliff face, creates a fantastical, timeless setting that evokes alternative realities, climate change, universal conflict and shifting lands.
Enhancing the mood of ritual and conflict, Banner’s soundtrack is both heroic and fragile, defined by a bathetic church organ that references the iconic song ‘Wild is the Wind’. The organ’s grandiose tones fill the basketball court, underscoring the tension of the work. The film concludes with the nose of the fighter plane eclipsing the sun, an image accompanied by the lyrics, ‘For we’re creatures of the wind’.
Fiona Banner comments: “The decoy inflatable planes exist to create an image of power, and heroic force, but they are puffed up posturing beasts. With the wind knocked out of them they speak of our vulnerability and hubris, more than our power. We are stuck in a farce. Venice seems like a resonant context for this work, which is ultimately personal, but considers that conflict and climate cannot be seen separated, it is politics, it is borders, and boundaries and territory, crossings, freight – conflict.”
The binary setup of the basketball court – with the implied presence of bodies in a competitive match – becomes an unlikely theatre in Venice for the installation’s themes of spirituality, environment, ritual, and conflict. The film, music and setting all combine to create a space of contending ideas – grandiosity and bathos, brutality and nature, play and masculinity.
A collaborative and performative text, The Woods Decay, The Woods Decoy and Fall (2021), will accompany the exhibition. Featuring the novelist Tom McCarthy as T (Typhoon) and Banner as F (Falcon), the two characters engage in a conversation that is at once erudite and scatological – a grotesque, playful and sardonic response to conflict.
There will be daily Pranayama breathing classes at the Salesiano during the exhibition, with more details to be announced.
For further information, please contact: Carlotta Dennis-Lovaglio at Scott & Co firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
Address: Patronato Salesiano Leone XIII, Calle san Domenico, 1285 30122 Castello Venezia
Exhibition dates: 19 April - 22 May 2022
Opening times: 11am – 7pm, Tuesday – Sunday. Closed on Mondays.
About Pranayama Organ
Pranayama Organ (2021) was first exhibited at Barakat Gallery, Seoul during the city’s lockdown.
The soundtrack for Pranayama Organ was recorded by Banner and friends in an empty East London church during the 2021 lockdown.
The song ‘Wild is the Wind’ referenced in the soundtrack was originally written by Dimitri Tiomkin and first recorded in 1957, by Johnny Mathis for the film of the same name.
Pranayama Organ was filmed on the beach at Pett Level, on the south coast of England, bordering the English Channel, where Banner has a studio.
In 1980 David Bowie filmed the video for his song Ashes to Ashes on the same beach at Pett Level.
In recent years record numbers of refugees have crossed the English Channel in small boats, some arriving onto this beach.
About the Patronato Salesiano
This is the first time the Salesiano has hosted an exhibition. Banner’s project actively supports the egalitarian ethos of the community center, social enterprise and the only youth centre in Venice open to kids every day.
About Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press
Born 1966 Merseyside, Fiona Banner lives and works in London. Her work explores gender, language and publishing through a range of mediums, including drawing, sculpture, performance and the moving image. The struggle between language and its limitations is central to Banner’s work. With an interest in how conflict is mythologised through popular culture, her early work took the form of ‘wordscapes’ or ‘still films’, blow-by-blow accounts in her own words of feature films, from war movies to pornography, from intimate scenes to historical events. Banner often works under the moniker of The Vanity Press. She established the imprint in 1997, with her seminal book The Nam. Since then, 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 Banner’s work.
Banner has exhibited internationally with solo exhibitions at institutions including Tate Britain and IKON Gallery and her work is held in many public collections including Tate and MoMA. She is Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy and is based in the UK.
Prananyama Typhoon has been enabled through a partnership between Barakat Contemporary, Seoul, Frith Street Gallery, London, Galerie Barbara Thumm, Berlin and 1301PE, Los Angeles.