Fiona Banner crash lands two fighter planes in Duveens Commission which questions beauty

By Mark Sheerin | 29 June 2010
A photo of the artist with a Harrier jet hanging vertically in the background

(Above) Fiona Banner, Harrier and Jaguar (2010) (Harrier detail with the artist). © Fiona Banner. Image: Tate

Exhibition: Fiona Banner – Harrier and Jaguar, Tate Britain Duveens Commission 2010, Tate Britain, London, until January 3 2011

For visceral impact, Fiona Banner's new work at Tate Britain scores a direct hit. Since yesterday, the neo-classical Duveens Gallery has been dominated by two real military jets, a Sea Harrier and a Jaguar.

Regardless of your moral stance on war, the lethal potential of these machines should push some uncomfortable buttons. Their new context offers the chance to look closely and then to take a good look at oneself.

One of the jets, the Jaguar, is even stripped of paint and polished to give a mirror like finish. The result is added dazzle and the chance to see your own stunned reaction. It lies flat on its back, as if the toy crash victim of a boyhood game.

Artist Fiona Banner has painted feathers on the Sea Harrier, which hangs nose down from the roof. But even trussed up like so, she may not have neutralised the deadly machine.

"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 of prey is, and that function is to kill," Banner has said.

"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."

In a former life the Sea Harrier was deployed in Bosnia and the Jaguar saw service in the first Gulf War. Beauty they may have, but surely it is a terrible one.

Open 10am-6pm. Admission free

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