Fiona Banner

Fiona Banner has been thinking about full stops—as the British call periods—for a couple of years now. She had always used them, of course, in the books and “wordscapes,” the sheer size and scale of which, coupled with the density of the text they carry, force a balance between words to be read and an image to be apprehended. What full stops are in themselves, however, had not hitherto been considered. Banner initially wondered whether there might be something like the typographical equivalent of a pause in speech, a hesitant and half-inquisitive “errrrrm . . . .” She then began working on “Full Stops,” the series of white polystyrene sculptures and graphite drawings of periods—from a wide variety of fonts—presented in the current exhibition.

Banner achieves a remarkable range of forms by expanding full stops in different fonts to 1800 point size and then projecting them into three-dimensional objects: cubes, spheres, ellipsoids, and other less orthodox shapes of quite varying sizes. Placed around the floor of the gallery, these sculptural presences require the viewer to navigate a passage through the space rather than simply move across it, recalling the way in which periods help populate the narrative landscape with identifiable features to be negotiated. With Banner’s “Full Stops,” the deliberation involved in such maneuvers is particularly striking because of the otherwise ephemeral nature of the works. Being polystyrene, a disposable substance that usually occupies the space around an object (in packaging, for instance), they possess only a qualified palpability. Conversely, it is the drawings of periods in the same enlarged point size, with their thickly overworked blocks of solid graphite, that signify a more thoroughgoing materiality. Placed low on large sheets of paper, as a period appears at the base of a line of type, the dense sheen of the graphite seems to weigh down the lower edge of the paper, which is only loosely fastened to the wall.

Seen in conjunction with one another, the sculptures and drawings cause a sequence of slippages between image, word (both written and spoken), object, and idea. Beyond all this is the knowledge that these works are made possible only through the incorporation of computer technology into the printing process. A “dot matrix” period, for example, is four circles arranged in a square, while the “Grafitti stop drawing explodes outward from a central area into a spray of droplets and “ink” mist, myriad carefully worked blobs and dots that cover much of the paper. Here, type is revealed as a set of instructions within which it is possible to incorporate the workings of chance, so that each period, even if it is recognizably in the same font, is unique.

Difference and repetition are also elements in the show’s other work, which comprised three evocations of D.A. Pennebaker’s 1967 documentary Don’t Look Back. Pasted around three walls of a room, the texts, silkscreened in black on silver, are attempts by Banner to remember the film’s account of Bob Dylan’s 1965 British tour. They are all roughly the same length and cover pretty much the same ground. There is no obvious effort to refine a description of the film. Instead we witness the obsessive operation of memory, the return, over and over again, to a replaying of the film in the mind in an attempt to make it real again. As the stops refuse a simple understanding of reality arrived at through and in relation to language, Banner’s multiple reworkings of the film, released the year after her birth, make language and memory the agents of a more convincing presence than one provided by mere attendance.

Michael Archer