Artist: Anna Banana
Venue: Kunstverein Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Date: October 21, 2017 – January 13, 2018
Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Kunstverein Amsterdam
Anna Banana is an exhibition of the work of Canadian mail artist, Anna Banana, whose work has been circulating the globe since the early seventies. From October 21 until January 13, Kunstverein presents the first comprehensive retrospective in the Netherlands of Ms. Banana’s groundbreaking oeuvre as prolific artist, publisher, collector and costume designer.
After declaring herself the town fool of Vancouver in 1971, denouncing her given name and taking on her new name, Anna Banana initiated numerous activities including performances and travelling art projects such as the infamous Banana Olympics, the Going Bananas Fashion Contest, as well as publications such as the magazines Banana Rag and About Vile. Through these publications, and via her extensive correspondence within the international mail art network (IMAN), Ms. Banana became a central source of exchange with and for international colleagues while, at the same time, deeply exploring the varied connotations of her alter ego. And although her practice might seem peculiar in its consistently absurdist tendencies, bordering, at times, the behavior of an obsessive collector, it is deeply rooted in artistic traditions like Futurism, Fluxus* and Dada.
Her practice also lends an insightful and personal look into the democratic potential of print media and its inherent social, political critique. Early on in her career she got to know the artists behind Image Bank, Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov – whose own claim to fame includes running as Mr. Peanut in Vancouver’s 1974 mayoral election. The contacts she made via their Image Bank Request List, a global mail exchange network, led her to become a key figure in mail art and one of the very few female artists associated with the group.
With the invention of the Internet and increasing postal costs, mail art was doomed, yet many of the same questions are now being picked up by a younger generation. The exhibition Anna Banana offers a historical overview of this practice that forms an urgent and contemporary alternative response to our current socially saturated and mediated world. It features key works of Anna Banana’s forty-five year-andongoing practice and explores the contemporary implications of mail art, with its unique approach to humor.
Kunstverein’s space has been radically transformed for the exhibition. And, like the artist, Anna Banana, the show hopes to enlighten, engage and surprise.
*Anna Banana contributed a Banana Flag to the Fluxus Flag show 1992, and both took part in the “Lightworks Envelope Show – An exhibition Catalog of Correspondence Art”.
Kunstverein wishes to thank its (Gold)Members, Amsterdam Fonds voor de Kunst (AFK) and Ammodo Fonds for their continued support. We also wish to thank Kara Hamilton, co-founding director of Kunstverein Toronto, who – following in the mighty footsteps of Anna Banana: 45 Years of Fooling Around with A. Banana at The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and Open Space Arts Society (2015) – is the principal initiator of this exhibition.