Opening Reception: Thurs 28 Jan,6.30–8.30pm
Study #13 looks in depth at the work Every Word Unmade: a series of 26 metre-high neon letters, together comprising an upper-case alphabet, hand made by artist Fiona Banner in 2007. This first presentation of Every Word Unmade in London is accompanied by a selection of Banner’s works using language and light.
The installation opens with Neon Full Stop (1997), a moment of characteristic humour and a pause in which to reflect on Banner’s practice. In the same year, Banner founded The Vanity Press, a publishing house which is an integral part of Banner’s practice, producing books and exploring the act of publishing as a form of performative sculpture – tattoos, neons, tombstones, trousers all become ‘publications’ by virtue of ISBN registration. Scroll Down and Keep Scrolling (2015) is its most recent publication, a compendious 800 page artist’s book of archive material produced for the occasion of Banner’s solo exhibition at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, of the same name.
Throughout the galleries are a number of Full Stop bean bag sculptures (2015). Each is based on the full stop design in a different typeface (Avant-garde, Courier, Helvetica, Didot, Peanuts, Klang, Capitalist, Bookman, Onyx). These existing typefaces we combined by Banner to create her own Font (2015), used in this information sheet and for captions in the exhibition.
The Vanity Press (2013) is one of a selection of works hand made by Banner herself in neon. The letters and digits of an ISBN number are imperfectly wrought through the laborious process of bending molten glass tubes by hand, and then published under the imprint of The Vanity Press. Beagle Punctuation (2013) composes in neon punctuation marks) the well-known face of cartoon Beagle Snoopy (for copyright reasons unnamed in the title). Snoopy’s familiar face is reduced to pure form, almost a symbol or character, between sign and representation.
The vast central work of the display, Every Word Unmade (2007), assembles the entire upper case alphabet, so containing, as the title implies, the possibility of infinite anagrams and narratives.
I was thinking about a kind of unmaking of language. As if you could make every word, or story imaginable, from these 26 letters. All the potential is there, but none of the words. The fragile wobbly letters, a byproduct of incrementally, inexpertly bending the glass – then the electrical circuit pumping the gas through, make it like one big, constant stutter…words about to be made or unmade. Fiona Banner, 2007.
Language is also embodied in written descriptions of undressing and undressed bodies such as Striptease (2003) and Nude Portrait (2011). They point to the performativity of language, an act of translation which is repeated in Mirror (2007) as the model (actress Samantha Morton) encounters her own portrait for the first time while reading it aloud to a live audience.
A new text by writer Emily King studying Every Word Unmade (2007) is commissioned for the exhibition, available in the gallery or download the pdf below.
DRAF Studies are a series of focused case-studies of works from the David Roberts Collection. Each presentation centres on a single work, displayed on its own in a gallery with a printed booklet. The commissioned writer studies the work in depth: from its techniques, origin and history to its position in the artist’s practice and contemporary debates. Previous Studies include works by Victor Man, Carole Bove, Bruce McLean, Martin Boyce, Boyle Family, Michael Simpson, Yto Barrada, Sterling Ruby, Ida Applebroog, Andreas Slominski, Etel Adnan and Phillip Guston.
Study #14. Oh Mystery Girl 3, Rosemarie Trockel is also on display in DRAF Gallery.