Anna Banana is a defining figure in Canadian Art. Her art career began in the early 1970s and draws on the traditions of Fluxus, Dadaist, Futurist and Theatre of the Absurd traditions. Through participatory performances, her work seeks to engage with audiences and bring them into the creative process, to create art that is based on community and sharing, rather than competition and commodity.
Banana’s participatory practice extends to the realm of self-publishing, where she created a number of serial publications including, Banana Rag, Artiststamp News, International Art Post, and the underground classic VILE, which was a parody of FILE magazine by General Idea. As a prominent member of the Eternal Network of mail art over several decades, she used publishing to feature the work of other artists and to share news and images from the mail art community. Her publications both document the activities of the Eternal Network and participate in its ongoing conversation.
Anna Banana’s artist file has been an important part of Artexte’s collection for many years. It’s been a favourite to show to student groups and to artists because it testifies to the richness of documentation and the aesthetic potential of artist files. In her file we find copies of her artiststamps, artist publications including issues of her postal art newsletter Banana Rag, Artistamp News and VILE, as well as postcards, flyers for events like the Banana Olympics, and tour posters of the Futurist Sound performances with Bill Gaglione. Browsing through the contents allows us to see that contemporary art, research, and critique, can be fun and that humour is a powerful tool for engaging with the public. Through these traces of her works we see that Anna Banana’s art is for everyone.
For this interview, Jessica Hébert sat down with Anna Banana to look through her artist file and engage in discussion about her art practice, the importance of participation, publishing, the mail art network, and archiving. Anna reflects on what it means to look back on her work and the documentation that remains after almost 50 years of art making.
The recorded interview also includes a spontaneous moment and a first-time in-person meeting between Anna and a long-time mail art correspondent Réjean François Côté, mail artist and friend of Artexte.