If this is “war art”, what position does it take? Is it sufficient to present upscaled readymades-altered to speak about the subject of war? I think not. One could hardly image a context more removed from the circumstances and experience of war than this. Fiona Banner presents Harrier and Jaguar as the Duveens Commission at the Tate Britain, seen here courtesy of ArtDaily. Each has been transformed (painted like a bird, polished like a mirror) and upended (recontextualised) in the Tate’s neoclassical museum space. The aestheticisation to which these particular functional objects have been subjected is therefore reduced to four actions: selection, surface treatment, re-orientation, and context.
Fiona Banner is quoted as saying: “It’s hard to believe that these planes are designed for function, because they are beautiful. But they are absolutely designed for function, as a bird or prey is, and that function is to kill. That we find them beautiful brings into question the very notion of beauty, but also our own intellectual and moral position. I am interested in that clash between what we feel and what we think.” How very English. Is that clash as in Margaret Thatcher, or Tony Blair? She’s not anti-war, just anti-these-wars, and their cost: “This work is not a direct response to the Iraq war. I marched against the war, we shouldn’t be there and the costs of Afghanistan are too high.”