Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press Pranayama Typhoon 19 April – 22 May 2022 Patronato Salesiano Leone XIII Calle san Domenico 1281 30122 Castello Venezia
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. In the crisp light of dawn, two aircraft slowly inflate on the beach, coming to life like two long-slumbering creatures. The setting of the film 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 a darkly comical ritual of courtship and combat.
The location of the film, a coastal area between a submerged petrified forest under the seabed, and an eroding cliff face, creates a fantastical, timeless setting that evokes alternative realities, climate change and shifting lands.
Enhancing the mood of ritual and conflict, Banner’s soundtrack is defined by a heroic, bathetic church organ that references the iconic song ‘Wild is the Wind’. The organ’s grandiose tones 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. We are stuck in a farce.
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 politics, it is borders, and boundaries and territory, crossings, freight – conflict.” The binary setup of the basketball court – with the implied presence of bodies in a competitive match – becomes an unlikely 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 and bathos, brutality and nature, play and masculinity.
A collaborative and performative text, The Woods Decay, The Woods Decoy and Fall (2021), will accompany the exhibition. Featuring the novelist Tom McCarthy as T (Typhoon) and Banner as F (Falcon), the two characters engage in a conversation that is at once erudite and scatological – a grotesque, playful and sardonic response to conflict. There will be daily Pranayama breathing classes at the Salesiano during the exhibition, with more details to be announced.