Artist Statement

After 5 years of teaching, (where I acquired my Banana name,) I began my “art career” in the late 1960s specializing in batik fabrics and wall hangings. After a few years of investing long hours in this work and finding little market for it, I decided against making more “art products,” and looked for more satisfying ways to express my creativity. This lead to my declaring myself the Town Fool of Victoria, the organizing of events which engaged the public in creative processes, the publication of my newsletter, the Banana Rag, which in turn, connected me with the International Mail-Art Network (the network).

I found the openness and responsiveness of the network both rewarding and stimulating, and while I produced a good many events in my work as Town Fool, doing so in the city of Victoria was a decided “uphill climb.” After a year of unpaid volunteerism, I was exhausted, and decided to take my efforts elsewhere. To find out where that would be, I took to the road in a van made home, to visit mail-art friends in the USA, starting with the west coast. A dozen or more mail-artists lived San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland, all of whom were keen to collaborate with me on public events, and it became evident that San Francisco would become my new home.
Working for the SF Bay Guardian newspaper, I was able to fill holes in the classified section with little ads soliciting banana news, offering Degrees of Bananology to anyone who contributed material, which surprisingly, flowed in. The paper was staffed by counter-culture people, including the publisher, so when I organized my first Columbus Day Parade entry in the fall of ‘74, the entire staff, along with many others responding to my invitations in the ad holes, turned up in costume, ready to hand out bananas and execute the ridiculous Banana Salute along the parade route.
Using a group photo of my ‘74 parade entry, the Guardian promoted my 1975 Banana Olympics event giving me the entire back page of the paper to give details of the events, including a music contest and entry forms. This April Fool’s Day event, which took place on a sunday afternoon in the Embarcadero Plaza, was a huge success with over 100 entries from the public.

In 1974, I published my first issue of VILE magazine, a parody of both LIFE and an artist produced magazine, FILE, after FILE published disparaging remarks about mail-art, which it had initially championed, but was now disowning. My intention in publishing VILE, was to provide a showplace for and documentation of the works of mail-artists. With assistance from the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines, it did just that. After doing the first three issues, the editorship alternated between myself and Bill Gaglione who experimented with other formats, but continued documenting mail-art.

My other area of work, developed at that time in collaboration with the Bay Area Dadaists and other mail-artists, was a series of performances of DADA sound poetry and Italian Futurist Sintesi. We presented these performances from Ukiah in the north, to San Diego in the south, at universities, book fairs and art festivals organized by mail-artists and the art center La Mamelle in San Francisco. The Italian mail-artist Cavellini was celebrated in my 1979 Columbus Day parade entry, and came in person for the Inter-Dada ‘80 Festival held in Ukiah, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
In 1978, from September to December, my then partner Gagione and I presented 29 performances of Futurist Sound and a film of the ‘75 Banana Olympics in 13 European countries including E & W Berlin, Poland and Hungary.

In ‘79, Gaglione and I were invited to perform our Futurist program at a festival in Vancouver, and that lead to an invitation for me to produce the Banana Olympics in the summer of 1980, at the Surrey Art Gallery, in a suburb of Vancouver. While there, I met a Canada Council officer who suggested that our Futurist program would make a good touring piece, which I quickly arranged, and the council funded. That fall, we presented an expanded program, Toward the Future, in 14 cities from coast to coast in Canada.

I moved back to Canada in 1981, and published the final issue, About VILE, with assistance of the Canada Council, and continued to producing the Banana Rag. In the 70s, in relation to mail-art exchanges and developments, I created a few sheets of artistamps. After my return to Canada, my apprenticeship in a printing shop and association with mail-artist/stamp producers Ed Varney and Jas Felter, I began creating more artistamps, in particular, my Euro-tour Commemorative editions of 15 sheets after my ‘86 travels in Europe. Then in 1989, with the purchase of an antique but functioning Rosbak Pin-Hole perforator, I began the cooperatively published, International Art Post, making full colour, dry-gummed and perforated stamps available to network artists at affordable prices. IAP continues to this day, having published for 21 years. I followed this initiative in ‘91 by converting the Banana Rag into a network newsletter, Artistamp News, (ASN) documenting the rapidly expanding field of stamps by artists. After eight exhausting issues, I passed the editorship of ASN on to Ed Varney, who did two or three issues before he burned out on it as well. After a few years of doing alternate publications, I resumed publishing the Banana Rag in 2003, and have continued with it ever since.

After the move to Canada, I went on to create a series of solo performance works and inter-active public events throughout the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s, which included several tours; Canada & the USA in ‘83, and in Europe in ‘86, 93, 98, and ‘03. Not being totally comfortable as a solo performer, I developed more interactive works, such as my ‘89 Bananas in Distress performed in Toronto in the 7a11d Performance Festival and broadcast nationally on CBC-TV, and the ‘93 “research” into the “new German banana consciousness,” Proof Positive Germany is Going Bananas. In 2003 I was invited by network artist Karla Sachse to participate in her Knots & Crossings at the Nordbahnhof Station in Berlin. For that event, I invited 12 north american network artists to create knots for inclusion in an installation in the station, and performed Tie a Knot on Me outside the station during the week of the city’s Transportale events. This year’s touring piece, But is it Art? Where do you draw the Line? is another tongue in cheek, inter-active research project into how people perceive/define art.

Anna Banana
January 22, 2009

European Tour Commemorative - Fall 1986, 1987
see also: Anna Banana on Mail Art, History of Artistamp

Bálint Szombathy: In conversation with Anna Banana Canadian bananologist
Anna Banana in Artpool

Galántai's exhibition opened by Anna Banana (1978)
Anna Banana in "Buda Ray University" project (1982)
Anna Banana's stamp sheets on "Stamp Images" exhibition (1987)
Anna Banana on "Flux Flags" exhibition (1992)
Anna Banana's "Banana Consciousness" event (1993)
Anna Banana's "Networker Post" stamp sheet (1993)

Anna Banana's work in "The year of chance" project (2000)
Anna Banana on "Parallel realities" exhibition (2002)
Anna Banana on "Threes and trinities" exhibition (2003)
Anna Banana in "the fourth dimension" (2004)
Anna Banana on "The experimenter" exhibition (2005)
Anna Banana's stamp sheets on the "Parastamp" exhibition (2007)
Anna Banana's "But is it Art? ..." event (2009)

Anna Banana videos in Artpool:
Banana Olympics (61') 038/1. Performance Excerpts (60') 038/2.
Anna Banana - Bill Gaglione: Futurist Sound, 1981 (23’37”).

further reading

Edward M. Plunkett: The New York Correspondence School
Ray Johnson's conversation with R. Pieper
Henry Martin: Should an eyelash last forever?
Vittore Baroni: The postage stamps' revolt
Bálint Szombathy: What are bananas good for?

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