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Anna Banana at the Ex Postal Facto mail art conference in San Francisco, February 2014
Anne Lee Long
February 24, 1940
Anna Banana (born February 24, 1940 as Anne Lee Long in Victoria, British Columbia) is a Canadian artist known for her performance art, writing, and work as a small press publisher. She has been described as an "innovator, entrepreneur and critic", and pioneered the artistamp, a postage-stamp-size medium. She has been prominent in the mail art movement since the early 1970s, acting as a bridge between the movement's early history and its second generation. As a publisher, Banana launched Vile magazine and the "Banana Rag" newsletter; the latter became Artistamp News in 1996.
Banana lives in British Columbia and operates Banana Productions, calling herself the "Top Banana". The International Art Post is the sole publication of Banana Productions, with 700 copies produced for each edition.
Banana attended the University of British Columbia from 1958 to 1963, graduating with an elementary academic teaching certificate. She taught for five years: two in public schools and three in Vancouver's New School.
She began her career in Victoria as a fabric artist, where dissatisfaction with the marketing of her work led toward more-public expressions. Banana began her newsletter, the Banana Rag, for her Town Fool project in Victoria in 1971. She sent a copy to Vancouver artist Gary Lee Nova, who replied with an image-bank request list providing names, addresses and image requests of contemporary mail artists. This began a forty-year relationship with a worldwide, egalitarian art-communication network.
In 1973 Banana moved to San Francisco, California to join mail-art friends known as the Bay Area Dadaists, who produced Neo-Dadaist performances, mail art and publications. She worked as a typesetter at a print shop, where the first issue of her magazine Vile magazine was printed in 1974. The shop—Speedprint—was a place she told writer Gretchen Wagner, "where it became apparent to me that anyone could be a publisher". Originally envisioned as a place to document and acknowledge network activity, Vile was a combination of art, poetry, fiction, letters, photos and manipulated advertisements from Life magazine. It was predominantly a visual publication, examining the flood of images emerging from mass communication. It was also a response to File magazine's shift towards mainstream art coverage. Gwen Allen wrote, "FILE would continue to publish the Image Bank image request lists until its Fall 1975 issue, but it would gradually distance itself from the mail art scene, prompting a string of takeoffs, including VILE—started, according to editor Anna Banana, in response to FILE's growing disdain for mail art'—and later, BILE and SMILE." Between 1974 and 1981, Banana published seven issues of VILE; editions four, six and seven were edited by her partner, Bill Gaglione. During its run, Vile explored a wide range of formats and media defining the mail-art genre. Banana cited as influences Dada humor, therapeutic madness and the Bohemianism of the Bay Area during the 1960s and early 1970s. Vile's nihilism fit the punk attitude on the rise in Britain and the United States at the time.
After returning to Canada in 1983, Banana published About Vile, a history of the magazine with a mail-art backlog and an account of a 1978 European tour by her and Gaglione (a documented conclusion of the pair's working relationship). That year Banana also organized a "Banana Art" event for the Global Television Network, held at Bridges Restaurant on Granville Island, Vancouver.
From 1983 to 1985, Banana worked in the production department of Intermedia Press, where she learned full-color printing (a skill used in her 1988 publication, International Art Post). IAP featured dry-gummed, pin-hole perforated sheets consisting of full-color stamps designed by artists. The works were financed cooperatively, with participating artists receiving 500 copies of their stamp and Banana Productions retaining the remainder for sales and promotion. IAP has become an annual publication; the 24th edition was released in October 2011.
In 1990, Banana created the Artistamp Collector's Album, a cloth bound limited edition of forty-nine silk-screened ring binders to house the IAP and the Artistamp News (letter) (ASN) (begun by Banana in 1991). Eight issues of ASN were published. Artist profiles, stamp news, new editions and several "tipped-in" (inserted and affixed as individual sheets, as opposed to being bound together in folded signatures) color stamps were featured in each issue. Banana then returned to general mail-art topics in the Banana Rag; edition 41 was published in September 2011.
In 1991, Banana created a miniature book and stamp sheet, 20 Years of Fooling Around with A. Banana, as the catalog for her twenty-year retrospective at the grunt gallery in Vancouver. Deluxe editions of the book feature stamps tipped-in over the black-and-white illustrations. She has received a number of grants from the Canada Council between 1975 and 2009.
In addition to the account of her years at the New School and editorials in Vile, Banana Rag and Artistamp News, Banana contributed two articles ("Mail Art Canada" and "Women in Mail Art") to the 1984 book Correspondence Art; Source Book for the Network of International Postal Art Activity published by La Mamelle. These articles were reprinted in 1984 in FFFlue, volume 4, numbers 3 and 4. Other print appearances include "The Transformation of Anne Long" in the March 1972 Maclean's magazine and "Banana Olympics: Sporty Art or Arty Sport" in the September 1980 Recreation Reporter. The magazine Rubberstampmadness published a series of her articles on mail artists: "Jeanie Eberhardt; the EberPlex Stamp Works" (September–October 2002); "Brain Waves at High Tide" (May–June 2001); "Mail Art Book Reviews: Umbrella Anthology & Mail Stones" (January–February 2001); "The Danish Mail Art Bug/Frank & Witta Jensen", Mar./Apr. 2000; "The Italian Connection/Vittore Baroni", Nov./Dec., 1999; "The Personal Touch/Peter & Angela Netmail", (May–June 1998) and "Artistamps in the Evolving Mail-Art Network" (May–June 1997). Banana's review, "Big is Beautiful at Venice Biennale", appeared in the August 1, 1999 Coast Independent and "Size does matter at Venice Biennale" in the August 26–September 2, 1999 free Vancouver weekly, The Georgia Straight. "Strategies of Audience Engagement" appeared in the 2005 book, DIY Survival.
In 1974, Banana accepted a job at the San Francisco Bay Guardian pasting up advertising pages. She filled the one-inch-by-one-column ad holes with invitations to her events; the first entry was for the 1974 Columbus Day Parade, offering "degrees of Bananology" to those who participated or sent banana news. In 1975, the Guardian ran a full-page ad for her Banana Olympics. It attracted over 100 contestants, who dressed up to compete in the overhand banana throw, the water-balance race and the four-legged race. Winners were those who crossed the finish line with the most "appeal", based on costume and style. It took place in the Embarcadero Plaza (with help from volunteers and the New Games Foundation), and was covered in the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner.
In 1980, Banana was invited by art curator Rosa Ho to present the Banana Olympics at the Surrey, British Columbia Art Gallery. The event was funded by the Canada Council, the British Columbia Arts Council and the municipality of Surrey. Originally scheduled for April Fool's Day, the event was delayed for three months while Ho defended it to a Surrey councillor who believed the event was not art; this inspired Banana to create the Bureaucrat's Marathon: three steps forward, two backwards and one to each side. The event took place on 13 July on the athletic field bordering the gallery, with over 100 participants. Banana and Gaglione finished the year with a Canadian tour (Toward the Future, a program of futurist theatre works) in fifteen cities across Canada from Victoria to Halifax.
Throughout the 1970s, Banana continued with parade entries, April Fool's Day events and collaborated with Bay-area Dadaists on Dada sound poetry and Italian Futurist syntheses presented at the San Francisco Book Fair, San Jose State University and the Saturday Afternoon Club in Ukiah. In 1978, Banana and Gaglione presented their "Futurist Sound" performance in A Literal Exchange at A Space in Toronto. That fall they began a European tour arranged through Banana's mail-art network, presenting "Futurist Sound" and her Banana Olympics film in 29 cities in 11 countries. In 1979 they presented the works again at the Living Art Performance Festival in Vancouver, and in 1980 at San Francisco State University, the San Francisco Art Institute, San Jose State University, the Inter-Dada 80 Festival in Ukiah, San Diego State University, University of California, Irvine and Long Beach, and the LA Dada festival in Los Angeles.
In 1981 Banana moved back to Vancouver and received funding for a new solo work, "Why Banana?". Beginning in the fall of 1982, she began presenting "Why Banana?" in nine cities across Canada, at the University of South Carolina and Modern Realism in Dallas, Texas. That year her Going Bananas Fashion Contest was also hosted live on CKVU's Vancouver Show, attracting 25 participants.
Banana's performances and tours continued through the 1980s. During the San Francisco InterDADA 84 Festival she performed her In the Red, was Greeter at the Headquarters and lectured at the Goethe Institute. In the 1990s she continued with an installation and performance in Copenhagen and performances of "Why Banana?" in Umeå, Sweden and at In the Red/In the Black in Den Haag, Netherlands. In 1993 she presented herself as Dr. Anna Freud Banana of the Specific Research Institute, who discovered the psychology behind the "New German Banana Consciousness". In each of 12 venues Banana installed 105 blow-ups of newspaper and magazine articles about bananas from the German press (supporting her claim that Germany had gone bananas) and asking visitors to take her Roar Shack Banana Peel Test and Personality Inventory for Banana Syndrome (based on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory).
Banana developed other works engaging the public as part of her research. "Bananas in Distress" (how people respond to a stranger in public with a problem) was presented in three street locations as part of Toronto's 7a11d Festival of Performance Art in 1993 and was broadcast (with an interview in her home) on CBC's On the Road Again. As part of her exhibit of collages and stamp art at the Sarenco Art Club in Verona, her next interactive event was a "Banana Communion" (with visitors kneeling to receive a "host" slice of banana and a sip of banana liquor). At the New Gallery in Calgary in 2000 Banana hosted a Banana Consciousness-Raising event, leading the audience through a guided fantasy of a banana's life from a corm in the ground to the fruit in the market. In her Banana Splitz parody of a TV game show (presented at the Banff Center) Banana exceeded the comfort zone of participants by asking them to ad-lib banana news stories, realizing that a visual-arts audience differs from an improv-theatre group. For her "Tie a Knot on Me" piece (presented at the 2003 Berlin Transportale events, Banana approached passers-by at the Nordbahnhof station and introduced herself as an art researcher from Canada; she then asked if they would tie a knot with colored threads on the back of her jacket, explaining that she was studying responses to an unusual request.
Banana's most recent interactive research, "But is it Art?...", asks her audience to record their yes-or-no responses to 30 images of artworks (many banana-themed) on her Specific Research response form. Participants then complete the reverse side with name, contact information, age, education, answer questions about art, draw a self-portrait and complete a "turn these lines into something recognizable" exercise. As with all her interactive works, Banana is more interested in ascertaining how much her audience will engage in her research than whether the images she projects are considered art. In 2009 she presented this work in Rome, Cararra, Gent, Minden, Berlin, Annaberg, Budapest, Bremen and Aarlborg, in 2010 in Victoria, BC and in 2011 in Charleroi, Belgium, Maastricht, Netherlands, Bergish-Gladbach and Berlin, Germany.
In 1983, Banana organized a mail-art show ("Show Your Colors") for the Arts, Sciences and Technology Center in Vancouver, producing a catalog for the 246 artists (from 32 countries) who participated. In 1987 she curated the performance series for the Artropolis Show in Vancouver, producing a new work with Ron Brunette (The World Series) presented at the Western Front.
In 1998, Banana curated "Artistamps", an exhibit from the International Mail-Art Network of her collection of mail art, for the Sechelt Art Center in Sechelt, British Columbia. With minor changes, it was remounted in 1999 as the "Popular Art of Postal Parody" at the Richmond, B.C. Art Gallery and in 2000 at the Open Space Gallery in Victoria.
Some of Banana's work has been part of larger exhibitions:
- Anna Banana: 45 Years of Fooling Around with A. Banana: The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and Open Space Arts Society (2015), Pratt Institute Libraries (2016)
- Fluxus to the Internet: Szepmuveszeti Museum, Budapest (2007)
- Leck Mich!, Lick Me! Artistamps since the 1960s: Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen (2007)
- Stamp Art and Artists Stamps: Art Institute of Boston (2000)
- Mail Art and Artistamps: Chicago Center for the Book Arts, Columbia College (1997)
- Browser Box: Artropolis at the Round House, Vancouver (1997)
- Image and Text: Sage Junior College of Albany (1996)
- Mail Art: Netzwerk der Kunstler, PTT (postal) Museum, Bern, Switzerland (1994)
- Third International Artistamp Biennial: Davidson Galleries, Seattle (1993)
- Timbres d'Artistes: Musee de la Poste, Paris (September 1993–January 1994)
- Some Zines: Boise State University (1992)
- Art Travels: Mail Art Festival, National Postal Museum-Museum of Civilization, Hull, QC (1992)
- Pacific Northwest Artistamp Collective: Davidson Galleries, Seattle (1989)
- Vancouver Art and Artists 1931-1983: Vancouver Art Gallery (group exhibit, 1983)
- The Art of Anna Banana: Galerie Galerij, Zierikzee, Netherlands (solo exhibit, May–June 2009)
- Anna Banana: Networking Publications: Research Center for Artists' Publications, Weserburg Museum, Bremen, Germany (solo exhibit, April–July, 2009)
- The Arts of Anna Banana: Sarenco Art Club Gallery, Verona, Italy (solo exhibit and performance, 1998)
- International Salon des Artistamps: Gallery Fifty-Six (three-person exhibit, 1992)
- 20 Years of fooling Around with a. Banana (solo retrospective): grunt gallery, Vancouver
- Banana Split: Installation in Vancouver's Warehouse Show (1984) and (with performance) Husets Gallery, Copenhagen, Denmark
- Bananagrams: Union Gallery, San Jose State University (1981)
- Banana and Gaglione: Ecart, Geneve, Switzerland and Stempelplaats Gallery, Amsterdam (1978)
Complete sets of all published works were purchased by the first two institutions; the remainder obtained copies at publication during the 1970s.
- Weserburg Museum-Research Centre Artists Publications, Bremen (2009)
- Harvard University Fine Arts Library (2009)
- Vile magazine: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University (2006)
- Smithsonian Institution
- National Gallery of Art
- Museum of Modern Art
- Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia
- Archive Sohm, Germany
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
- Pompidou National Museum, Paris
- Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
- National Gallery of Australia
- Muse de Art Contemp., São Paulo
- Museo de Bellas Arts, Caracas
- Otis College of Art and Design
- Vancouver Art Gallery
- Sackner Archive, Miami Beach, Florida
- LAICA, Los Angeles, California
- New York Public Library
- Oakland Museum of California
- Sculpture Center, Sydney
- Franklin Furnace Archive
- Art Bank, Ottawa
- Library and Archives Canada
- National Gallery of Canada
- J. Paul Getty Museum
- National Postal Museum, Ottawa
- "Anna Banana". Mail Art @ Oberlin. Oberlin College. 2005. Archived from the original on 13 September 2006. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
- Victor Brand, In Numbers; Serial Publications by Artists Since 1955, 2009 by PPP Editions in association with Andrew Roth Inc.
- Ruud Janssen (1994–1995). "Ruud Janssen with Anna Banana: TAM Mail-Interview Project". JCM - The Museum Library. Jas W Felter. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
- Anna Banana (2011). "Anna Banana". Canada | LinkedIn. LinkedIn Corporation. Archived from the original on 8 July 2012. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
- Anna Banana (2011). "INTERNATIONAL ART POST". BANANALAND. Anna Banana. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
- Radical School Reform, Simon & Schuster, 1969.
- Gretchen L. Wagner, "Riot on the Page; Thirty Years of Zines by Women", in Modern Women; Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art, 2010
- Gwen Allen, Artists' Magazines; an Alternate Space for Art, MIT Press, 2011
- Wagner, Gretchen L. (2010). "Riot on the Page: Thirty Years of Zines by Women". Modern Women: Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art.
Canadian artist Anna Banana, who founded VILE in 1974, was one woman who gravitated to these democratized technologies.
- Allen, Gwen (2011). "The Magazine as Mirror: FILE 1972–1989". Artists' Magazines: an Alternate Space for Art. MIT Press.
While acknowledging the 'uneven aesthetic' of the mail art network, Banana believed 'that the process of communication and exchange is important regardless of the aesthetics and skills of the sender'.
- Donna Pinder (18 July 1980). "Banana's fruit antics flavor Surrey 'Olympics'". Surrey Savant.
The first race, the Bureaucrats' Marathon, in which contestants were wrapped in red tape and proceeded three steps forward, two back, and one to each side.
- Mars, Tanya (2004). "Not Just for Laughs: Women, Performance and Humor". Caught in the Act: An Anthology of Performance Art by Canadian Women.
Anna Banana's performances focus on interactivity and parody.
- Blake Gopnik (August 20, 1998). "It's not so easy being yellow: Anna Banana". The Globe and Mail.
A kids'-show character of the same name, appearing on TV screens courtesy of Montreal's Prisma Productions, is a late and unworthy interloper in bananadom, the Vancouver artist said. 'I would like to be acknowledged as the original Anna Banana, and to have this program done under licence from me.'
- Lloyd, Ginny (January 2015) InterDADA 84: True DADA Confessions. TropiChaCha Press.
- Saper, Craig (2005). "Networked Psychoanalysis: a Dialogue with Anna Freud Banana". At a Distance: Precursors to Art and Activism on the Internet. MIT Press.
Anna Freud Banana is widely considered a crucial figure in the formation of networked art experiments, especially correspondence art, stamp art and public-performance art.
- Robin Laurence (28 October 1999). "Special Delivery Brings Mail Art; Working on an intimate scale, artists foster dialogue". The Georgia Straight.
Writer and performance artist Anna Banana, one of the early proponents of the movement in Vancouver, has curated an exhibition of 'artistamps, works in postage stamp format, designed and produced by artists from across Canada, the United States, Europe, and Asia, drawn from her own collection.'
- Adrian Chamberlain (7 October 2000). "Anna Banana Goes Postal". Times Colonist.
Curated by Banana, a former Victorian now living in Roberts Creek, the exhibition is an international retrospective of an underground art phenomenon.
- "Art in Office". National Post. 25 April 2000.
- "Anna Banana". The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. September 18, 2015. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
- "Anna Banana: 45 Years of Fooling Around with A. Banana". Open Space. September 19, 2015. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
- , Pratt Institute Libraries Research Guide, Anna Banana: 45 Years of Fooling Around with a Banana, February 1-April 10, 2016.
- "ParaStamp exhibition - Parabélyeg kiállítás". www.artpool.hu. Retrieved 2017-05-05.
- "Weserburg: Archiv 2007". www.weserburg.de. Retrieved 2017-05-05.
- Sarah Milroy (November 8, 1997). "Vancouver show (Browser Box) presents art-world archive". The Globe and Mail.
Some of the artists from Vancouver's Intermedia glory days resurface in Browser, among them performance artist Anna Banana, who presents her hilarious 1994 multiple book work; Proof Positive that Germany is going Bananas, part of her 'ongoing study of the banana in contemporary culture'.
- William Jaeger (January 28, 1996). "The Rocky Marriage of Words and Art". Times Union (Albany).
It might be no surprise that the most commercial-looking works in the show, by Anna Banana, are highly polished and are fully successful in integrating words and illustration.
- Karen Henry (1990). Parachute Magazine (59).
Anna Banana has maintained the continuity of her own history with diligence and perseverance.
- Sara Diamond (January 1985). Issue Magazine (Vancouver).
Anna Banana's installation, Banana Split, polarized positive human creativity, represented by placing the artists' brightly colored banana world against violent inhumane destruction, represented by child murder and rapist, Clifford Olsen.