b. 1940, Canada
A conceptualist, rather than an image maker, Anna Banana’s activities spiral out, one project giving rise to another, utilizing whatever media the concept requires. For starters, her Town Fool project 1971–72, (in which she attempted to raise consciousness about the foolishness of consumerist pursuits by engaging them in playful, creative activities), spawned the Banana Rag news letter, which in turn connected her to the International Mail Art Network (IMAN) and thirty years of mail art exchanges, writing and publishing. Her mail-art activity has been constant, and while not always her main focus, it has provided materials and ideas for other work, and an ongoing connection to an international community of artists who are, like her, more interested creating and exchanging ideas and small artworks than they are in producing “market products”. Mail art is a system that is inclusive rather than exclusive, providing artists with positive interactions, feedback and exchanges of their works.
While she is known as a performance artist, and has performed Dada and Futurist scripts, she has long favoured, and continues to create interactive events. A major object of these works, is to engage the audience in the action, rather than have them passively observe a performer, whether it be a parody of an Olympic contest, a fashion show, or a “scientific” research project. Through this approach, she blurs the boundary between stage/performer, and audience; performance and “real life.”
From such events come video and audio documentation, photos and texts, which she edits for presentation in installations, lectures and publications, or uses in her visual artworks; artistamps and most recently, Artist Trading Cards (ATC’s). In 30 years of mail art activity, she has created and mailed many collages and sheets of artistamps; recycling visual material from her events, from other mail-artists, and from mass media magazines and newspapers. While interaction is what motivates her work, she has also exhibited her collage works in conjunction with documentation from her events. Since 1998, she has presented several exhibitions of artistamps selected from her collection, at the Sunshine Coast Art Center, the Richmond Art Gallery, and Open Space in Victoria. This exhibit is still available for other bookings.
Her first published writing came out in the book, Radical School Reform (1969), of her experiences as a teacher in the New School in Vancouver. Since then, her main focus has been the art and artists of the IMAN, published in various mail-art ‘zines and catalogues, VILE Magazine, Correspondence Art, Artistamp News, and more recently, Rubberstampmadness magazine.