Book 1/1 by Fiona Banner is a puzzling visual conundrum. Is it a work of art, a book or an elusive coded statement? In effect it is all of these things. A set of letters and numbers are placed neatly in four rows over a silver background, in a form that is reminiscent of an eye-test chart. The ‘I S B N’ along the top row alerts us to the fact that we are looking at a magnified version of an International Standard Book Number (ISBN), the universal system of identifying individual published books around the world.
Book 1/1 is taken from an edition of 65 multiple prints, which are each identical and different at the same time. Each print in the edition has its own ISBN number and is registered under the system with its own title. In effect, each of Banner’s prints is simultaneously a publication and a work of art. The concept of making works of art purely from excerpts of text is commonly found in 20th-century and contemporary British art – works by Hamish Fulton, Art & Language and Emma Kay are just a few examples. Yet Banner has subverted this concept by effectively making a book that consists of only one sheet or page, on which the ISBN number (normally printed in a small font in the front pages of a book and ignored by readers), is magnified in size and enhanced in significance. By transferring the notion of individual identity to the medium of limited edition prints, Banner raises the question of the validity and meaning of these types of multiple prints.
Book 1/1 was published by The Vanity Press, a publishing company that Banner established in 1994, primarily to enable her to explore different text-based ideas through what she regards as the democratic medium of print. Other print editions that she has previously produced under The Vanity Press include All the World’s Fighter Planes (2006) and Nude Standing Poster (2007).
Fiona Banner was born in Merseyside and completed a BA in Fine Art at Kingston Polytechnic (1986–89). After finishing her MA in Fine Art at Goldsmith’s College (1991–93), she soon established a reputation as an artist who explored social, political and cultural ideas and themes via her text-based works. Examples of her solo exhibitions include The Nam at the Frith Street Gallery, London (1997), a 1000 page flicker book that features a compilation of descriptions of famous films about the Vietnam War; and My Plinth is Your Lap, an installation at Dundee Contemporary Arts (2002). She was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2003.
In 2010, Banner’s work Harrier and Jaguar, featuring two fighter planes, was installed in the Duveen galleries at Tate Britain. An exhibition of her films was shown in Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh Festival 2013. Banner has also exhibited her work around the world including group shows in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Berlin and Vienna. She lives and works in London. In 2017, her work was included in Age of Terror: Art Since 9/11, a group exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, London.
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