As part of our studio, we went to Fiona Banner’s Font exhibition showing at Frith Street Galley near Piccadilly Circus. Gallery display is a form of publishing also, so this fits into our focus on ‘publishing’ in all it’s forms. The body of the work was in one large room.
The problem with an exhibition like this is that they are showing ‘art’. It is very easy to make judgements based on what you see without the knowledge of the artists’ intention or the context of their work before. You could argue both ways about the validity of opinions formulated in a vacuum, but this was my initial situation when walking into the room.
The first major object in the room from the entrance is the titular ‘font’ ‘a found 19th century baptismal font… engraved with the word ‘font’ it creates a playful slippage between naming, language and object/image; a recurrent theme in Banner’s work’ according to the information provided at the gallery. It is a font with font inscribed into it with the typeface font that Banner created. This I get, so I move on.
Next up is Nose Art two graphite representations of harrier jump-jet nose cones provocatively placed side by side. The information supplied makes references to aircraft noses being ‘the most heroic part of an aircraft’ and a ‘military form of folk art where aircraft are graffitied with popular cultural icons’. And I just thought it was something to do with breasts. Does the ‘art’ fail if I don’t get it.Does the artist fail? Is it a failure on my part to comprehend the vast complexities and subtleties of the piece? Does it even matter? This is my problem with ‘art’. Like a good book, you must have an understanding of the vernacular the creator uses to fully appreciate the creation, but unlike a book, the vernacular in question isn’t something the everyman is taught in primary school,
so when I see a ‘chair’ leaning against a wall because it lacks the ability to stand by itself, that I cannot even test whilst against the wall, because you may not touch it, because it is ‘art’, I cannot help but be dismissive of the whole enterprise.
My current working definition of ‘art’ right now is ‘something of no inherent use which has had value attributed to it.’ The issues which ‘art’ can address and tackle, in its own way, are as long as a piece of string. This is too broad for my liking, so when I see Banner’s exhibition, I am not just judging it, I am using it to judge all ‘art’.
While I may not wish to emulate the works of Banner on display here, the eternal question of ‘what is art’ and ‘what makes good art’ continues to rage on inside me.
Food for thought at the very least.