Nick Hackworth

Fiona Banner, Frith Street Gallery

Essays & Reviews Evening Standard

Fiona Banner has the dubious pleasure of being one of the four artists short- listed for this year’s Turner Prize — which promises to be one of the least inspiring of recent times. As with her fellow nominees, Banner is best described — though the phrase is regarded as crude and outdated these days — as a conceptual artist. In her work, as in theirs, it is the impact of the encapsulated idea that matters rather more than the aesthetic effect, which is all very well, as long as the ideas expressed prove to be truly engaging.

In the happy pursuit of her ideas Banner employs numerous media and here she presents sculpture, drawing, neon pieces and audio work. She is best known, however, for her text pieces, which are flat, neutral descriptions of what she sees on screen when she watches a particular film. The Desert, for example, is her account of what happens in Lawrence of Arabia, presented as a daunting, unreadable block of text, the size and shape of a cinema screen.

The Nam, meanwhile, is a 1,000-page book containing a continuous and similarly unreadable transcription of six Vietnam war films.

Banner continues in a familiar vein in this show with a blow-by-blow account of the goings on in Arsewoman in Wonderland, a porno loosely based on Alice in Wonderland, recorded onto a vinyl record that sits playing in one of the basement gallery spaces.

The steady monotone of Banner’s voice reduces the fleshy activities to a dreary, monotonous sequence of events and is an appropriately world-weary response to the relentless stream of media, whether pornographic or not, that we find ourselves caught up in.

Sadly, ennui is also the appropriate response to the rest of the work on show. Upstairs is infested by Banner’s ConcretePoetry series made up of insulting phrases, such as Slapper or Bollock Brain, rendered as foot-high, free-standing sculptures that appear to be made of concrete but turn out, unamusingly, to be made of plaster and polystyrene. Just as uninspired are the two flower-shaped neon pieces, proudly made from parts recycled from broken neon signs, a venture great for the environment perhaps, but no good for aesthetics.

Until 2 November. Information: 020 7494 1550.

An exhibition of the work of this year’s Turner Prize shortlistees opens at Tate Britain on 30 October; the winner will be announced on 8 December.