Pranayama Typhoon

Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press

17 | 03 | - 05 | 05 | 2023 White Box, ZF Campus | ZU

Funded by Sparkasse Bodensee | Fränkel Stiftung | Enderle Veranstaltungstechnik

What does a post-heroic view of the tools and devices of war look like? Why are weapons so often named after animals and natural phenomena? What role do they play in the relationship of so-called civil societies to the world, and how civil are these societies in the first place? With her exhibition Pranayama Typhoon, shown at the White Box as part of the artsprogram's annual theme Being Wrong, Liverpool-born artist Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press (1966) approaches these questions from unexpected angles.

The exhibition title Pranayama Typhoon refers, on the one hand, to the revitalizing ancient breathing technique called pranayama, which is widespread in yoga practice, and to the Typhoon, a state-of-the-art fighter plane, named after the tropical storm. A beanbag in the shape of an aircraft’s wing (Soft Parts

 2022) invites visitors to recline and enter the performative space of the film.

On view is the video Pranayama Organ (2021), in which two life-size inflatable decoy military fighter planes, a Falcon and a Typhoon, become protagonists. Shot on the coast of southern England, the film shows the two dummies lying on a beach. The airplane replicas - which are actually used in the military to mislead the enemy - slowly fill with air, as if they were gently coming to life.

Later in the film, two figures, including the artist, dressed in fighter plane costumes, meet in an absurd dance of courtship, combat and seduction. The prancing, arguing, stumbling fighting war machines remind us of, in turn, birds, automatons, humans, who negotiate their ambivalent desire for intimacy over conflict, for power and disarmament in an absurd ritual. A space is created in which contradictory ideas of brutality, vulnerability, nature, heroism, bathos and intimacy flow into each other.

The Organ in the film’s title refers both to the corporeal body and the massive wind instrument. The film‘s soundtrack is both fragile and heroic, defined by a church organ that references the iconic song Wild is the Wind. Its grandiose tones and the sound of breathing fill the space, underscoring the tension of the work.

As part of the event series Being Wrong, her installation, the accompanying program and a conversation with the artist encourage us to discuss the contradictory relationship civil societies have with territory, defense and combat.

About the artist

As a child, Banner reports in an interview, she was both fascinated and frightened by the disturbing appearance of low-flying military airplanes, when they suddenly and abruptly broke through the ‘pastoral tranquility’ of the Welsh landscape and tore up the sky. It triggered in her a profound awareness of the contradictory relationship between human brutality and nature. Since the beginnings of her artistic activity, fighter planes have been a recurring motif in her work. They are brought to life in a peculiar way, re-fictionalized and transformed into equally sensually beautiful and grotesque anti-heroes.

The fusion of creatures, natural phenomena and artifacts, and the intrusion of an alien reality into a familiar environment, runs like a thread through Banner's work.

The artist, who has also worked under the name The Vanity Press since 1997 has a long and playful, often performative relationship with publishing, in 2009 she registered herself as a publication. She became known in the 1990s, with her book NAM, in which she retells six famous Hollywood Vietnam movies including Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now, in her own words. In 2009 she caused a sensation when she hung a BAe Sea Harrier fighter upside down from the ceiling of the classical hall of the Tate Gallery in London alongside a mirror polished upturned Jaguar fighter plane.

As professor of perspective at London's Royal Academy, she works in a variety of media. Her works, now in major collections such as MoMA, consist of text, writing, performance, installation, drawing, film, and painting. Most recently, she created a series using old seascape paintings as found material into which Banner inserted monumental abstract full stops, disproportional pieces of punctuation that float on the surface of the sea like sea mines; language too is a weapon. In 2020, she deployed her sculptures as part of an action, with Greenpeace she sank two sculptures carved from granite boulders in the form of full stops, onto the ocean floor, where they function as an underwater barrier to disrupt bottom trawler fishing.

List of Works

Pranayama Organ, 2021

High definition digital film

10:38 mins

Soft Parts, 2022

Bespoke beanbag
Dimensions variable

There is a publication to accompany the exhibition featuring Pranayama Organ: Eight Thoughts (2022), a text by Joanna Pocock. The Woods Decay, The Woods Decoy and Fall A Noh Play in Three Acts (2021), a collaborative and performative text, by Tom McCarthy as T (Typhoon) and Fiona Banner as F (Falcon).

Pranayama Organ (2021) was filmed on the beach at Pett Level on the south coast of England where Banner has a studio. In recent years record numbers of refugees have crossed the English Channel in small boats, some arriving onto this beach. Wild is the Wind was originally written by Dimitri Tiomkin 1957 and performed by Johnny Mathis for the film of the same name. Pranayama Organ was first exhibited at Barakat Gallery, Seoul during the city’s lockdown

Pranayama Organ Film Credits

Director: Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press. Producer: Alice Walters. Producer/Camera: Babak Goodarzi. Drone/Camera: Voytek Ketz Production Assistant and performer: Kirsty Harris. Post Production Assistant: Joseph Sakoilsky. Editor: Tobias Zaldua. Soundtrack: Annabelle Boissonnet, Crispin Davis, Raphael White, Tobias Zaldua. Pranayama Organ was first shown at Barakat Contemporary, Seoul.

Photo Credits

Pranayama Organ (Filmstill), 2021

Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press

Courtesy of the artist and

Frith Street Gallery, London and

Galerie Barbara Thumm, Berlin

Special thanks to

Frith Street Gallery, London and Galerie Barbara Thumm, Berlin

Further information 

Further information on the annual theme Being Wrong

For more information on the lecture series in collaboration with Arts of the Working Class and the Center for Cultural Production

Responsible for the project

Rahel Gloria Spöhrer | Curatorial direction of the artsprogram of Zeppelin University |

Prof. Dr. Karen van den Berg | Academic director of the artsprogram of Zeppelin University |

Open Mon-Thu 10-16h for evening events and on request

Phone: 07541 6009 1302


Time to decide

This website uses external media, such as maps and videos, as well as external analytics tools – all of which may be used to collect data about your online behavior. Cookies are also stored when you visit our website. You can adjust or revoke your consent to the use of cookies and extensions at any time.

For an explanation of how our privacy settings work and an overview of the analytics/marketing tools and external media we use, please see our privacy policy.