Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press
'The relationship between spoken language, written language, and sculptural form relies on an acknowledgement that words are extensions of our physical selves, so I started to explore the physicality of words.'
Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press (b. 1966, Merseyside) explores gender, language, interpretation 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 conceptual approach. 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 pornos, from intimate scenes to historical events. These works evolved into solid single blocks of text, often the same shape and size as a cinema screen. Banner later turned her attention to the idea of the art-historical nude, observing a life model and transcribing, in words, the pose and form. Her repurposing of military aircraft is another key element in her work. She often transforms these imposing machines to brutal, sensual and comedic ends, using parts of military aircraft in her installations, or granting them a kind of living presence. In her film Pranayama Organ (2021) two decoy military aircraft slowly inflate on a desolate beach. The film then transitions into a ritualistic performance acted out by two people dressed as fighter planes, one of which is the artist, as human and automaton perform a darkly comical ritual of courtship and combat.
In 1997 Banner started her own publishing imprint The Vanity Press, with her monumental The Nam. She has since published many works, as books, sculptural objects or performances. In 2009 she issued herself an ISBN number and registered herself as a publication under her own name.