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Stephanie Bannister Anatomy of Technology


Bannister’s work investigates the uncertainties of the human body through her use of images and materials. The theme of investigating bioart (1) within the modern day body is specific to Bannister’s work and invites a question of morality: should we artificially sustain life or let it run its natural course? Through her representations of the ways in which artificial intelligence (2) is enhancing the human race, Bannister invites the question of whether embodied artificial intelligence (3) will eventually take over the function of the human organ? Bannister uses realism through various practices - installation, drawing and photography - to explore the complex relationship between life and death. Offal (4) is utilised to reference the internal organs of the human body, depicting that which sustains human life. The idea behind the concept is to show life in its raw state, exploring the movement and detail of the inner workings of the body, this is often intimate information the general population does not wish to acknowledge. The artist investigates how mechanical components can offer a surreal, yet logistical life support to organs. Bannister refers to her work as a ‘visual aid’, reminding us of biological advancements we have already made: pigs’ hearts in human bodies; artificial limbs; hearing aids. The renowned physicist Professor Stephen Hawking has warned that “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” (2014) Bannister’s work questions whether humanity will become dependent upon technology and how carnal art (5) influences new

possibilities of modifying the ready-made human form. Von Hagen claims that ‘we are willing to destroy the body in order to gain knowledge… yet it is through showing these developments that the public become susceptible to it.’ (2004) Bannister’s works offer the experience of technology integrated with life; the very physical nature of ‘Sweet Dreams’ gives the work a very vivid and immediate experience. It has become part of the artist’s recognisable series of works using offal – works often perceived as grotesque and often shocking the audience. The preparation of the offal is an important process to the artist; it takes time to ensure a sterile process, keeping the offal as clinically clean as possible while enhancing its true beauty. Through removing the horror and smell of the abattoir, Bannister hopes to captivate and, in turn, educate her audience. Bannister is fascinated by audience reaction and often questioned about her choice of this medium and its disposal after live exhibitions. The offal has to be carefully selected; the aim is to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible while balancing the elements of size, weight and function into the composition. The offal is replaced every three days and, due to the nature of Bannister’s work, cannot be permanently sustained as a piece of art, instead being documented through photography. Through her work, Bannister pays homage to Harroway, Orlan, Stellarc and anatomist Von Hagen as their works “transgress boundaries” of the human body. Bannister does not view these works or her own as body mutation, more as


advancements on the quality of life, examining what can be achieved through the use of integrating art, science and technology.

Reference

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BBC News (2014) Artificial intelligence: A brief introduction to AI. [Online]. [Accessed 9th December 2014]. Available via <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-30296999>

(1) BioArt is a recent practice, which has emerged along with the combined evolution of various fields of study. Zylinska (2009) defines bioart as art that is “utilizing biomaterial such as tissue, blood, or genes as its medium” (Zylinska, 2009). BioArt is thus a general term to talk about art that uses a living medium. Thacker (2005) describes bioartas “often used to refer to projects that deal with biology as an artistic medium” (2) An area of computer science that deals with giving machines the ability to seem like they have human intelligence. (3) Embodied artificial intelligence exists in the same world as us, such as a robot, with the hope of advancements being achieved in the future. (4) The term offal refers to the organs of a butchered animal, either disposed of or used for food dependant on the organ. Bannister uses offal as the next best thing to human organs within her works. (5) Carnal Art is self-portraiture in the classical sense but made by means of today’s technology. It swings between defiguration and refiguration. Its inscription into the flesh is due to the new possibilities inherent to our age. The body has become a modified ready-made, no longer seen as the ideal it once represented, not ready enough to be adhered and signed

-----------------------------------------------------------‘Cor’ and ‘Ripped Apart’ were early starting points that lead into realism within Bannister’s practice.

Barnett, R. (2014) Sick Rose. Thames and Hudson.

Moore, C, M and Mackenzie Brown , C. (2004) Gunther von Hagens and Body Worlds Part 1: The Anatomist as Prosektor and Proplastiker. [Online]. [Accessed on 8th December 2014]. Available via <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ar.b.20003/ pdf > Moore, C, M and Mackenzie Brown , C. (2004) Gunther von Hagens and Body Worlds Part 2: The Anatomist as Priest and Prophet. [Online]. [Accessed on 8th December 2014]. Available via <http://www.koerperwelten.com/Downloads/9_AnatomicalRecord_Part2.pdf> Orlan (No date) Carnal Art. [Online]. [Accessed 10th December 2014]. Available via <http://www.orlan.eu/bibliography/carnal-art/>


Ripped Apart 2013 Ink

Cor

2013 Mixed Media Installation


Open Meat Trials 2014 Mixed Media


Still Raw

2014 Photography


Is It Still Beating? 2014 Photography


Ripped Out

2015 Photography


Series ‘Ripped Apart’

2015 Mixed Media Installation


Bannister aquires her offal from a local abattoir in Staffordshire, she has forged a relationship with the owner, Mrs J Westwood. Upon hearing of the butcher’s childhood spent ‘playing’ around the abattoir, Bannister was intrigued to hear a persons fond memories of a ‘slaughter house’. Bannister documented this now derelict space through photography, also writing brief accounts of the family’s memories. Following this visit Bannister was inspired to create a series of works based on the developing stages of life. 2014 Westwood Butchers and Abattoir is a family-run business in the heart of Great Wyrley. Jane Westwood, who owns the business jointly with her brother, inherited it from her parents and Jane still runs the business to this day, although she is now in her seventies, a frail 5’2” tall and hampered by a walking stick. Jane greeted me at the back of the butcher’s shop, a semi-detached house which functions both as a home and as a business. The office was filthy, the ancient carpet was thick with hair and mud. Two old dogs relaxed on a settee whilst Jane left her egg-packing to show me around. Complaining of pains in her back and foot, Jane guided me up a side alley and across a yard towards the old slaughter house. Jane had offered me neither eye contact, nor a smile, yet was surprisingly accommodating of my wish to photograph her abandoned slaughter house, now used only for storage.

Pointing with her stick at the slaughter house, Jane tells me with affection that this was where she played as a child. The building is quiet, surreally so, given that its history is full of so much violence and death. Jane explained how she owns the business jointly with her brother - Jane runs the business while her brother runs the abattoir. The success of the business has meant that they have outgrown their land and so they are in the process of buying the abattoir they currently work from, in Chase Terrace in Cannock. This move, they hope, will mean that their business will continue to grow and prosper. The law now requires a vet to be present at the slaughter of animals. Jane started our tour at the far end of the slaughter house, a narrow alley down which the cattle were led into the holding bays. The bays would hold up to ten cattle, or twenty pigs or lambs. To my surprise, there was no smell. It was dusk, meaning that the building was dim; the lights refused to turn on at the switch, so Jane proceeded to hit it with her walking stick, to no avail. I could hear the scampering and scratching of mice in the roof space above us as we proceeded. I could barely see where we were going and as such, my photographs are not wholly clear. Another narrow passage led the cattle one by one to the slaughter house. A steel contraption was used to pin the cow’s body and their head was clamped through a hole for them to be shot.


The holding machine then opened, and the cow was laid on the floor to be strapped up to a belt machine attached to the ceiling. This machine allowed the cattle to be bled, skinned and moved with ease around the slaughter house. Moving on, I was shown the large floor drains, covered by metal grids – the ‘bleeding bay’ for cattle, pigs and sheep to be bled dry. Jane informed me that while the cattle were slaughtered individually, pigs and lambs were killed in groups over the bleeding bay. Another ceiling rack with metal hooks attached transported the pigs and lambs to their next destination. A metal gate divided this area from the next, secured with a single latch. I noticed that the ceilings of this stone-cold building were high and the whitewashed walls surprisingly clean.

to where the carcasses would be loaded up on transport to be moved over to the shop. As we exited the building through the blue plastic door flaps, a group of bright blue wheelie bins stood, one with its top open, full of pig joints. Outside, the yard lay dark with no exterior lighting to guide our steps. I noticed a ‘Caution: Shooting’ sign casually thrown against a fence. Back in the office of Jane’s house, which I now noticed smelt worse than the slaughter house, she affectionately showed me a faded and barely visible photograph of a satellite view of how the land looked when her parents owned it. This yellow image took pride of place on the wall, yet I could barely make anything out as Jane pointed out and explained each part of the picture and the first developments and extensions her parents had added to the slaughter house.

Next on our tour was the ‘boiling bath’. Jane gave the metal bath a whack with her walking stick whilst informing me that she ‘played around this as a kid, it’s where we boil the pigs’ hair off’. All over the floor were polystyrene and cardboard boxes, trolleys and steel rods. I had to carefully manoeuvre my way around, while hoping my elderly companion would not fall and injure herself.

The floor was covered with folders, books and toolboxes. Shelves were stacked untidily with more folders and books. I manoeuvred round to take a photograph but Jane asked me not to catalogue the mess. We moved into an adjoining room where Jane indicated a more recent satellite view of the land taken around twenty years ago, showing the developments that Jane and her brother have made to the business.

Next to someone’s bottle of water, a brace of half-plucked dead pheasants lay on a surface; through a doorway a worker shouted to me that they were for his tea.

Having warmed to my interest in her slaughter house, Jane now made eye-contact with me and smiled as she brought my visit to an end, eager to return to the seven boxes of eggs she still had to pack.

An entire row of meat hooks over a conveyer belt lined our route out of the slaughter house


Slaughter House 2015 Photography


Slaughter House I 2015 Photography


Slaughter House II 2015 Photography


Slaughter House III 2015 Photography


Spot The Abattoir

2015 Mixed Media Installation


Preparation

2015 Photography


Sweet Dreams

2014 Mixed Media Installation


Toddlers Joy

2015 Mixed Media Installation


Toddlers Joy Negative 2015 Photography


Interaction

2015 Mixed Media Installation


Building A Home

2015 Mixed Media Installation


Over

2015 Mixed Media Installation


Over

2015 Mixed Media Installation


Over

2015 Mixed Media Installation


www.saatchiart.com/stephbannister

Stephanie Bannister Steph Banno bannister0757 stephaniebannister@ymail.com


Stephanie Bannister. Artist Portfolio.