Saturday, January 8, 2011


Fiona Banner at Tate Britain

Viewing Fiona Banner’s, Harrier and Jaguar Installation at Tate Britain in the last few days of 2010, I was reminded why my single favorite piece of contemporary art remains Rachel Whiteread’s, “Ghost,” an interior concrete cast (vintage 1993) of a dilapidated Victorian House. Now only a memory, even the documented postcard ushers haunted emotions. Something happens when art is writ large. Along these lines is Fiona Banner’s piece. If it is big, it will at least make a splash akin to Jeff Koons’s, flowered “Puppy,” or Oldenburg’s, “Clothespin,” stuck in the entrance plaza of an ugly 70’s skyscraper in our fair city. Of course, my penchants for all things military makes me a sucker for two English fighter jets seen up close. Re-assembled in the Tate's main hall, the Harrier Jump-Jet, a disaster prone anomaly (vertical take-off!?) from an aircraft carrier, is now displayed like a hung-pheasant, nose-down in a cupboard. Its shape is alarmingly beautiful and belies its purpose, or does it? Especially, when placed in these neo-classical corridors of power. What makes it compelling? It depends on your standpoint and your age; the metaphor of by-gone war machines into philosophical contemporary art is not complicated especially in London, a place that has been invaded a few times. That’s why Airfix Kits of Spitfires remain in production! The Harrier – cutting edge technology in 1960 – also references a massive streamlined shark; say no more. The only thing more nifty would have been a torpedo boat from World War Two – my real passion. The other jet is discarded delicately like a child’s toy, on it’s back – cockpit actually – and polished to a chrome surface showing us our distorted and curious selves. Again, I think, Koons, (shiny bunny) but heavier and much pointier. This jet is a decommissioned British Jaguar (bought by the artist) that saw service in Operation Desert Storm – remember the First Iraq War? Banner explains in the documentary, holding one of her scale models, that there is also a gender/nature thing going on. The Jag, is aptly nicknamed, Buster Bollocks, by the crew after an endearing comic book character known for his enormous testicles he transports in a wheelbarrow. Check out that exhaust! Will British humor also disappear into the mists of time along with Empire?

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