Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press: Pranayama Typhoon

Patronato Salesiano Leone XIII, Venice

Pranayama Typhoon | 19 April–22 May 2022

11am–7pm, Tuesday–Sunday. Closed on Mondays


Patronato Salesiano Leone XIII, Calle san Domenico, 1285 30122 Castello Venezia



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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 long- slumbering creatures. The setting 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 an absurd 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 and the sound of breathing 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, our bathos. 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 a failure of our language, it is borders, and boundaries and territory, crossings, freight – conflict.'


A seascape painting, Capitalist, Capitalist, Capitalist (ellipsis), sits atop the basketball hoop, one of Banner’s series of found paintings in which the original subjects, seafaring vessels, battleships and destroyers, are painted out, replaced with black, oil-painted full stops. Though Banner is known for her text based works she has returned to this abstract form of language over the years, the full stop works punctuating her studio practice. To begin with these anti-texts were a way of exploring a crisis in her own language, here they are deployed to investigate a wider crisis of language; a failure of communication, of language adrift on the precipice.


In 2020, Banner deployed an ellipsis of granite hewn full stop sculptures in an action with Greenpeace to highlight a failure to fully protect Marine Protected Areas around the UK from destructive fishing practices. Two were deployed at the Dogger Bank, where they now exist on the seabed and one outside DEFRA. Following this and a longer sustained campaign by Greenpeace, in April 2022 the UK government committed to a total ban on bottom trawling in the Doggerbank Marine Protected Area.


Also on display at the Patronato is a published film Dear Bathos,__________Love., which is an address to our state of desire, hubris, and fragility.


The setup of the basketball court within the church becomes an apt 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, bathos, brutality and nature.


There is a publication to accompany the exhibition featuring a text by Joanna Pocock and The Woods Decay, The Woods Decoy and Fall A Noh Play in Three Acts (2021), a collaborative and performative text, by the Tom McCarthy as T (Typhoon) and Banner as F (Falcon).


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19 Apr 2022