Week 2, Day 4: The War Within – Fiona Banner

Fiona Banner

The Nam – While we didn’t get a large amount of text to view, the images and textual representations of other projects clearly show her scrupulous attention to detail and restricted structure. She IS craft, in my opinion. Initially, I didn’t actually find myself interested with the concept. It sounded dry. Despite my enjoyment with Goldsmith’s Traffic, it sounded like a homework assignment. Write while watching movies.


Of course it wasn’t. A 1,000 page book that covers a series of popular Vietnam films. On her site it claims that “Banner describes the films as if she is there, not influencing the plot, but always on set running alongside the action.” Yes, running, and turning, and cringing…

“like a watermelon sliced up, like a slice has been taken out. There’s white fat below the fur and skin. The head flops pathetically forward. The guts and shit and stomach and grass are just spilling out from its back. The guy at the back is just digging his machete into its guts, it looks like it might get stuck”

What Banner is interested in is how scene-by-scene, the viewer absorbs material, but in a methodical, line-by-line way. I think her craft is enveloped in semiotics and linguistics—the transference of image to paper without the pause button—without the intense film study zoom. She’s experiencing these movies but translating them for us.

“congealed blood sticks to the hairs on his forearms.”

She then takes these words swirling on the page and in her mind and transfers them into a performance.


I found myself very enthralled with Banner because while her performance pieces tend to be abstract in nature, she is attempting to create an experience that is beyond 3D – it is on one’s skin, it is blinding, overwhelming, perhaps the way film can be.  At the Yorkshire Sculpture Park she displayed Chinook which is closely related to her text The Nam. The warehouse is whitewashed and pristine, yet when you walk into the space you are met with the overwhelming whir of the helicopter blades, pace inconsistent, speed increasing. I’m sure it is an extremely interactive and disembodying experience.

“Fluttering Pages” – http://www.fionabanner.com/performance/flutteringpages/index.htm What I really enjoyed about this piece in particular is that it really showcased what Banner’s intention is. Notice the overwhelmingly large helicopter blades that are part of her Chinook display. If you picture yourself there for a moment, isn’t it interesting that despite the environmental chaos churning around you, you search for meaning, for direction? The book that slowly flutters, then harder as the wind increases—why is this where we turn?

I could see the combination of these pieces in particular to all be working together to stretch and pull, stretch and pull our mind’s perception of the true reality of war and how it is cataloged in books and captured in the movies.

1 thought on “Week 2, Day 4: The War Within – Fiona Banner

  1. So you looked at some of her other works. Does this lead you to see writing, sculpting, performing etc. as more directly related than you would ordinarily? Does it have implications for reading / teaching?

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