5 October 2020
Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press has this morning delivered a 1.25 ton Full Stop sculpture onto the doorstep of DEFRA – the ministry responsible for protecting our sea.
Together with Greenpeace activists, Banner placed her sculpture in front of the DEFRA building in Westminster, London. The artist wanted to send a clear message to George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, calling out the Government’s failure to protect Britain’s most sensitive marine areas.
This sculpture, Klang, is one of a series of three, the remaining two Full Stop sculptures will be loaded onto the Greenpeace ship Esperanza this afternoon and deployed as an installation at sea in the Dogger Bank protected area, the stretch which once connected Britain to continental Europe thousands of years ago. The art action completes 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 MPAs. Greenpeace investigators documented extensive illegal bottom trawling activity in the area during a fact finding mission in summer 2020. A dossier documenting this activity is available here.
Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press has been creating sculptural Full Stops intermittently for the past 20 years, first exhibiting them at Tate Britain in 1997. These new works are sculpted from inert granite formed over eons, deposited across the North Sea. The three sculptures, which form an ellipsis, are styled in different vastly blown up fonts: Klang, Peanuts and Orator.
This action marks a turning point in the artist’s approach, raising discussion around where art happens and new possibilities for art-making in the post-pandemic age. Through this action Banner raises questions about the value of art. These sculptures, which might conventionally be seen in a rarefied, controlled art environment, are here being given to the natural environment. Their currency is not found within the normal art systems of exchange but in their potential to act as agents for change.
Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press, said:
'The pandemic has made us more alert to the precariousness of nature, at a time when words like ‘crisis’ and ‘emergency’ have been repeated to the point of diluting their urgency, this work is a message - a call to stop, reconsider and act.
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.
Working with this extraordinary stone, densely formed by natural forces, it became clear how it resists human intervention. Like human versus nature, the stone is only half tamed and half formed into Full Stop shapes. It retains part of its natural form, redolent of eons of bouldering around on the planet. Nature is strong but fragile, it cannot bend to our will ad infinitum.'
Philip Evans, an Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said:
'This Sculpture symbolises our Government’s abject failure to protect our most important marine habitats from destructive and illegal fishing. Marine protected areas like the Dogger Bank are protected in name only. Our boulder barrier will keep bottom trawlers out of almost 50 square miles of the Dogger Bank, but for our oceans to be properly protected, the Government must step in. We can’t do it all. The Government should put a big full stop on destructive and illegal fishing in our protected areas, period.'
Adrian Noble, a 53 year old fisher based in Whitby, said:
'Over the last 10 years bottom trawlers have decimated the crab and lobster grounds off Whitby, taking our crab pots with no regard for our living. These bottom trawlers have been targeting the Dogger Bank, killing everything in the process. Thank God Greenpeace have got involved, stopping these vandals from wrecking the sea by putting these boulders down. It is a protected area so these destructive industrial boats shouldn’t be there.'
The Greenpeace activists who have deposited this sculpture outside DEFRA all ensured they were socially distant throughout the operation, and worked in groups of fewer than six to ensure compliance with Government Coronavirus regulations.
Greenpeace activists on board the Esperanza will notify the relevant marine authorities of the location of each of the sculptures deposited in the Dogger Bank to ensure safe navigation for all mariners operating in the area. They pose no safety threat to passing marine traffic.
Greenpeace is calling for 30% of the world’s oceans to be fully or highly protected by 2030. The UK Government backs this call, but is still failing to properly protect our waters closer to home. Just 5 out of the UK’s 73 offshore marine protected areas “may be “progressing towards their conservation targets."
Greenpeace will remove the boulders and sculptures - both in the Dogger Bank and at DEFRA - if the UK Government commits to immediately ban industrial fishing from the Dogger Bank and all of the UK’s offshore MPAs.
About Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press:
Fiona 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 her work. She first became known for her “wordscapes” – often heroically proportioned works that capture in her own words films, from war blockbusters to porn. Fiona first presented her full stops at Tate Britain in 1997 and was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2002. 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 London.
The public action also coincides with a new project titled ‘The Retrospective Has Been Cancelled’ at Phytology, an open-air artist and community-led space in Tower Hamlets exploring the environmental and social complexities of the urban landscape.
Photo and video from the doorstep of DEFRA available here
Photo and video from the Dogger Bank available here