– Spring/Summer 1999

Making It Real

Matthew Higgs

Fiona Banner, The Desert, 1996. Detail. Silkscreen print, 518 x 229cm. Courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery.

The following conversation took place at Banner's Bethnal Green studio around the time of the artist's Tate Gallery Art Now exhibition.

Matthew Higgs: In 1997 you exhibited a small blue neon work in the shape of a full stop, which you described at the time as 'the smallest neon in the world'. The recent series of sculptural full stops exhibited as part of your project for the Tate Gallery's Art Now Room appear to be an extension of this work. Had you been thinking about the potential of the punctuation mark for long?

Fiona Banner: Well I've been thinking about pauses and breaks in speech forever. But a few years ago I made a piece of work called The Corrections Made To The Text of Apocalypse Now, which in a way was like a digital equivalent to liquid paper. I had started to proofread this long text that describes the film Apocalypse Now and for whatever reason, primarily I guess because I'm an appalling speller, compounded by the fact that I write exceedingly fast, I ended up correcting virtually every other word.

It started me thinking about the whole process of proofing and spell-checking. So instead of just correcting the words, I ended up taking the words out, all of them, but keeping the spaces where they had been so that I ended up with something that resembled a landscape or more accurately, something that looked like a galaxy of punctuation marks. That, in turn, suggested or alluded to the idea of an entire text - without the use of any actual words whatsoever - a long silent expletive. There's always this attempt to keep up with

  1. The press release for The Nam reads: 'The Nam is a 1,000-page all-text flick book. It is compiled of total descriptions of well-known Vietnam films - Full Metal Jacket, The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, Born on the Fourth of July, Hamburger Hill and Platoon. The films apparently never begin or end, but are described in their entirety, spliced together to make a gutting 11-hour super movie.' Banner describes the films as if she is there, not influencing the plot, but always on set running alongside the action.