Ami Clarke

BANNER REPEATER, reading room and project space, Hackney Downs train station.

Banner Repeater is an artist led reading room and project space, founded by Ami Clarke in 2009, situated on Platform 1, Hackney Downs railway station, London E8 1LA.

The reading room holds an archive dedicated to artists’ printed material and is home to Publish and be Damned's public library.  It provides an important bibliographic resource that all visitors to BR can browse. The bookshop holds a selection of artists' publications for sale.

The project space has an ambitious exhibition programme of new art work installed in a highly visible and accessible location and a vigorous programme of talks, events and performance.

The project is driven by its location, dedicated to developing critical art in the natural interstice the platform and incidental footfall of over 4,000 passengers a day provides. This is achieved by rush-hour opening times that attract commuters, and an open door policy maintained 6 days a week.

The emphasis on multiple points of dissemination, via pamphlets and posters published from the site, and the other free material we distribute, as well as on-line activities, and the siting of the archive of artists’ printed material as a public library; a resource to be utilised by both local community and visitors in a working station environment, remain key.

Banner Repeater is a not-for-profit organisation and has been supported by the ESF Hackney Council, as well as the Arts Council England, the Elephant Trust, the Chelsea Arts Club Trust (2011/12 artist-led space award), and the Italian Cultural Institute.

PRESS: Banner Repeater - see below for further details of project or go to


Issue 137 March 2011 RSS

Light Writing



‘Light Writing’ was an exhibition that nibbled at the tail-end of several decades’ worth of experimental video- and film-based investigations into printed language. This territory is potentially huge, encompassing as it does everything from structuralism and concrete poetry to the correlation between words and power, desire and the mainstream media. Thankfully, the works selected are concise and often dryly funny. Richard Serra’s classic video Television Delivers People (1973), for example, features a blue screen and a scrolling text declaring ‘Television delivers people to the advertiser’ and ‘You are the end product’, while a cheery soap opera-style soundtrack plays in the background. The inclusion of works by Laure Prouvost, John Smith and Steve Hawley – artists of different generations with a shared taste for jocosity and incisive irony – also indicate a show with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
Curated by Duncan White and Steven Ball, researchers based at British Artists’ Film and Video Study Collection in London, ‘Light Writing’ drew from extensive archival research to tease out parallels between works of different generations. Erica Scourti’s Trailer Truths III (2004) picks up Serra’s deconstructive gauntlet with a video composed of texts gleaned from movie trailers. Glittering gold-bullion fonts, gothic scrolls and typewriter scripts are spliced to form sentences: ‘Laws are made / When opportunity knocks’; ‘Power / Is no accident’. The neo-concrete poetry of Pete Spence’s Visual Poem 12 for Paula Claire (1994), which is based in part on the poetry of Guillaume Apollinaire, is echoed in Ball’s own work exploring non-linear text, Direct Language 5.1 (2010), in which the screen is split into nine cells displaying fragments of Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem Un Coup de Dés (Throw of the Dice, 1897). 
If these works recuperate historical forms, Louis Henderson’s A Video by Marcel Broodthaers (2010) takes the matter one step further. Henderson’s video essay is based on an archive of letters stored at Tate Britain sent by Marcel Broodthaers to Joseph Beuys, as well as an older cache at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, penned by Jacques Offenbach to Richard Wagner a century earlier. Henderson, a young artist who studied under British filmmaker William Raban, is evidently working partly within a film-essay tradition pioneered by Raban, Andrew Kötting and Patrick Keiller, as well as within a more contemporary excavation of the afterlife of seminal art works. The archival is hardly a new subject, as was evinced by the inclusion of Mike Leggett and Ian Breakwell’s ‘Unword’ (1970), a series of performances by Breakwell that incorporated Leggett’s film into subsequent performances, as a sort of cumulative living archive.
One aspect of the show was notable: Banner Repeater’s location, a space next to an East London railway station. Only accessible directly from the station’s platform, the gallery clearly has a quasi-democratic aspiration (think of it like a real-world version of Liam Gillick’s ‘platforms’). It is open at 8am to catch commuters and has a reading room to browse as you wait for the next train. The wordplay in much of the work here – particularly that of Maria Theodoraki, John Smith and Steve Hawley – is as approachable as an easy sudoku puzzle on the morning commute. ‘Light Writing’ was nevertheless not always welcoming to non-art aficionados: Ryszard Wasko’s video Negation (1973) is a structural assault in which the word ‘nie’ is repeated to maddening effect, while David Lamelas’ Reading Of An Extract From Labyrinths By J.L. Borges (1970) meanders through a variety of philosophical definitions. Experimental video and film was never designed for this kind of exposure and no doubt many passers-by will find it baffling. But it is also great to see a show that does not view the public, as Serra’s work would have it, as a corporate product.

Colin Perry




Every train station should have a gallery in it. Like all good ideas, it seems obvious once you think of it. There are ongoing attempts to make certain stations places to view art, but I have yet to find one that strikes quite the balance as the project space at Hackney Downs. It's new show, Light Writing is brought to you by Banner Repeater, one of a series of projects supported by Hackney Council intended to bring empty shops and premises back to life. True, if you don’t live there, Hackney Downs station probably isn’t the first place you’d want to spend your morning, but after experiencing this exhibition, which consists of video works by a number of artists new and canonical, I felt, briefly at least, that there wasn’t any place I’d rather be. 

A small space on Platform 1 houses the gallery. The exhibition space is a bit small, but for the programme of works, it felt just the right size. The relationship between text and image (and text as image) is the unifying theme of the show. There are classics like the lo-fi masterwork that is Richard Serra’s humbly coruscatingTelevision Delivers People, a six and a half minute jeremiad about the corrosive power of a corporate media. Text crawls up the screen slowly, venomously raging against television as a tool of control and atomisation. The incidental music that plays in the background brings an element of lightness and humour to a work that is about as preachy as it gets. It’s an object lesson in how to make a work that is both more and less than it is. An extract of another classic, Unword by Ian Breakwell and Mike Leggett, doesn’t quite manage the ferocity and early-days improvisational weirdness of one of the most enduring conceptual works, but it’s a welcome taste that, hopefully, will whet a lot of appetites to explore it fully. I can’t say Steve Hawley’s Special Loops was quite as strong, despite a lovely image of water pouring back and forth through a dam as the film looped, the people standing in the foreground of the shot seemed to diminish the otherworldliness of the view. Still, though, there were very few truly forgettable works in Light Writing which is a nice change from the usual exhausting quality swings of most group shows. 

Another of the beauties of having a gallery in a train station is that, unlike almost any other gallery you’d care to name, the sense of social distance engendered by being in an ‘art gallery’ is significantly eroded. I was watching Louis Henderson’s A Video by Marcel Broodthaers when someone from the platform came in and mistook me for a gallery attendant. She asked me who Broodthaers was and what the film was about. 

It was a great experience, not least because she settled in for a while before her train to watch Henderson’s tonally deft meditation on art, geography, failure, and time. The video centres on a letter Broodthaers wrote to Joseph Bueys. Henderson reads the letter as the camera jumps between words, sometimes following the voiceover, sometimes, fortuitously, not. I don’t know if the lady in the station went off to Google Broodthaers’ (or Henderson’s)other work, but the possibility that waiting for a train might mean something other than being bombarded with advertising can’t help but make life seem a little more liveable. 

True, the space at Hackney Downs isn’t going to be suitable for every kind of work. It’s hard to imagine a show of painting or sculpture being every effective there for a variety of reasons, but Light Writing seemed to get the balance about as close to perfect as you can hope for.