IBT News

Q&A With Jo Bannon

Bristol based performance artist Jo Bannon is returning to Bristol as part of a national tour of Alba. Ahead of her show on 8 September at Arnolfini she answered some questions as the next artist in our series of Q&A’s.

 1. Who inspires you at the moment?

All the women: Joan Jonas, Andrea Arnold, Noëmi Lakmaier, Maggie Nelson, Phoebe Davies, Elisabeth Moss, Jane Campion, Dana Michel…the list goes on…

2. Have you been to an interesting event lately, or seen something that has made you think differently?

2 days ago I took part in a durational performance called Filibuster by UK artist Deborah Pearson. The form of the work is to recreate a kind of Filibuster, the tactic used in US Senate to block a vote by a speaker taking the stand and refusing to step down by continuously speaking, for hours or sometimes whole days. The invitation from Deborah is to create a space for 12 women to speak unprepared, unscripted and non-stop for an hour each, creating a 12 hour performance of women speaking their mind. 

I was one of the 12 women and I took part in the project because I thought it was such a beautiful, clear and conceptually neat proposal: to use a male-dominated and obstructive tactic such as the Filibuster but to queer it by filling it with female voices, co-operating in this attempt to find out what happens when we give women voice. I found the work profoundly moving and provoking, both as a spectator and as a participant, because at the heart of the experience for me was the provocation of what happens when women are given a platform to be seen and heard but lose their ability to self censor.

I make meticulous work, I think through every detail, every aesthetic decision, the way the seats are laid out, the colour of the programme, the way the stewards greet you…it is something I enjoy and I think it is a necessity at the core of my work. But perhaps it is also gendered. As a woman I do not always feel afforded the luxury of messiness. Of being unprepared. Of winging it. Of fucking up. When I am asked to give a talk I make sure I prepare, I get my references in order, I become the expert on the subject. And If I cannot, I will withdraw from the invitation. This necessity of preparation is in part because I know I will be judged, and perhaps judged more critically than a male counterpart. And in part it is a rehearsing of the ‘appropriate’ language, the intellectual vocabulary required of me and a defence against speaking emotionally, personally, from the heart. Because that type of conduct is not afforded to a female artist without severe criticism, I mean look at the crap Tracey Emin has to tolerate. 

So the work made me think differently about the risks we are afforded and take when speaking out and the beauty of speaking before we think.

3. What are you reading or listening to at the moment? 

I’m reading The Newly Born Woman by Helene Cixous and Catherine Clement (which is mind-blowing but quite hard work) and so to add a bit of female sass and swagger I’m listening to a lot of Leifeli47, in particular this video.


Alba was commissioned by In Between Time and premiered at IBT15 Bristol International Festival (2015) at Arnolfini and sold out to local, national and international audiences, leading to a national tour of Alba.


Alba, Jo Bannon © Paul Blakemore