Outside and Inside
Susanne Titz, from ‘Banner’ catalog to ‘Your Plinth is My Lap’.
Publ. Revolver, 2002
New Century Gothic, Scrift, Elephant, Broadway and Playbill are three-dimensional full-stops on a monumental scale. Their varying shapes, from sphere to pointed cone, to angular cube or polyhedron, are derived from the different typefaces from which they take their names. These Fullstops, made of metal with a black gloss finish, are the descendants of an earlier white series, made of polystyrene. Collectively, the Fullstops are probably the briefest articulations in Banner’s oeuvre; the end of all sentences, spoken or unspoken, removed from the two-dimensional of writing and placed in real spaces as solid forms. First shown in exhibition spaces, the Fullstops have now been positioned outdoors, in the public park that surrounds the NAK building. Distributed across the grass, they lend this space a new charge, placed as they are among the events, encounters, conversations and situations that occur there. Just like the speech balloons in a comic, they suggest narratives, doubling the attention paid to all that goes on around them, whether actual reality, or in one’s own imagination or memory. With this shift into the park, Banner lets a context work for and with her objects. Transferring them into a ‘real’ exterior space ultimately means moving them into the reality from which here material was taken at the very beginning. The park and its visitors become participants in this constellation, whether strolling there alone and lost in thought, in groups or as secret lovers.
For the uninitiated, the Fullstops in the park are simply abstract objects, ‘drop sculptures’ in a green space. They are positioned on the way to Banner’s exhibition, without any explanatory signage. Their location in a public space releases them simultaneously in several dimensions they are touched and used, as motifs for photographs, as pedestals, as goals for football or as shelters for privacy. They are really loved by many passers-by as objets d’art whose shiny black surfaces reflect the sky, trees and bushes. And for all those who see them twice – both before and after entering the exhibition – an ambiguity emerges which encompasses all these aspects, their perception, the events surrounding them and the way in which they are used.
Banner’s Fullstops can be experienced truly as ‘hybrids’ which raise questions regarding the role of art in public space as well as the ability of modern sculpture to communicate. They are hybrids because they are standardised, shaped characters whose origins lie in language and typography and yet they are simultaneously sculptural objects whose first reading remains that of auratic, autonomous works of art. Banner thus also takes into account the possibility that there might be confusion. Afterall, she did not just place the Fullstops in a park, but in specific locations of the NAR, its entrance and terrace, speculating that these positions would be recognized as familiar spots for sculptures by modern predecessors such as Henry Moore.
Banner constructs objects whose aesthetic is frequently reminiscent of the products of modern art, of formats of modern painting and sculpture, of Minimal Art, phenomenology and conceptualism, of analytic constellations and studies of language. And thus one can truly penetrate a familiar surface of shiny metal, smooth shapes and serial typescripts to reach the pornographic and explicitly intimate content of Banner’s work. Seen in this way, Forever n’ever, a metal mirror in which Banner’s (personal) text is only discernible through punctuation marks, becomes a spatial object which encloses the observer and, as with the monumental Arsewoman in Wonderland, asks questions regarding the gender of author and observer. Anyone who has ever stood in one of Dan Graham’s mirror spaces recalls the referential nature and sensitising strategies of such works and is prompted to reflect again on how one relates to them.
The phenomenon of re=charging and re-casting shape and medium evident in both the Fullstops and the printed text pieces extends to Banner’s hand-written and smaller works. Mother, which like Arsewoman in Wonderland, takes a pornographic film as its starting point, appears in the form of a huge, obsessively hand-written text, with a supposed inward nature that is shattered by Banner’s clear, observant and apathetic language. A two-part print on paper (Solar Anus) in which the scenes of Arsewoman in Wonderland are driven into a spiral-shaped whirl, functions, by contrast, in almost the opposite way; Banner sets the text using the kind of experimental typography of concrete poetry, so that the ornamental quality and entropy of the text and its voyeuristic wandering through the scenes becomes evident. Banner’s content runs contrary to the usual role of the medium in each case; it is contrary to the once highly-personal inward nature of text-based work in modern art and also to its initial approach of fragmenting language, often distancing and undermining it. Hence Banner’s texts, which in more recent works portray a mediation of intimacy, are thus always caught between privacy and public appearance, between language and subject, never merely touching the nature of the scenes described but also that of the formats used. They occupy these formats, infiltrating the impact of voyeurism and sexual attraction where emotive or more neutral subjects previously had their place.
In this sense, the black-full stops in the park can be classified as ‘released’ objects and, at the same time, as the most cryptic examples in Banner’s work to date. Their location means that Banner’s new coding may possibly remain unnoticed and also allows them to be read purely in terms of their form. Their appearance in a green space leads back to the concept of art’s autonomy: as sexless, neutral works, which one views as such if one is a sexless and neutral observer. And only if one forgets the given realities of life, personal desires, intimate fears and sex itself, all of which are given here.