|“Contemporary visual art is characterized by an oxymoron: |
It may be a global language, but it is not always perceived in the same way.”
This artist explores contemporary political issues and their intrinsic links to the visual culture of globalization. Bill Balaskas’s journey began with studies in economics, which informed his early sociopolitical works, created after the global financial crisis of 2008.
In recent years, his work has focused both on the cultural roots of political and economic struggles as well as on the existential threats faced by humanity today – such as climate change, the re-emergence of the possibility of a world war, and the dangers posed by the misuse of new technologies. He wishes that in the future we will “not need visual artworks to remind us of past disasters, their causes and consequences.”
Yet, his love of art and resolve to follow this path predates his foray into economics. “All my studies, like all my experiences at the end of the day, are resources in the same direction,” he explains. The artist, author and academic doesn’t view these qualities in isolation but rather, in tandem. Just like he cannot separate his financial education from his art education. “In every period of my life, there are different balances created, with their own joys and challenges.”
Today, Dr. Bill Balaskas is Director of Research, Business and Innovation at Kingston University, London, which is known for its high-quality research into art, and illustrious staff such as artists Elizabeth Price and Mike Nelson, and architect Andrew Clancy. The most “challenging,” as he calls it, side to being at the helm of this institution, “regards what is often mislabeled ‘entrepreneurship’ and deals with how the School receives external funding and interacts with the various organizations. It may be the most bureaucratic and dry part of my role but, when used in a balanced way, it can open up new prospects both for our students as well as those we collaborate with.”
In 2022–2023, he will be a visiting professor at the Australian National University in Canberra. He is set to work on a project that combines his educational and academic background with art, based around how universities work with artists and cultural institutions. “Australia provides ideal stimuli for such research and has been a favorite place of mine ever since I first worked there in 2015”, he notes, adding that collaborations in other countries “αre a unique blessing, which opens the door to new potential homes for the future”.
His work has been exhibited around the world in galleries, museums, festivals, and public spaces. In fact, he aims to link each artwork with the history and use of the space where it is shown, every time.
The summer of 2022 saw Bill Balaskas’s installation entitled “2291” presented in the garden of the Archeological Museum of his home city, Thessaloniki – created for the “All of Greece, One Culture” program of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, which is dedicated to the anniversary of the Asia Minor Catastrophe.
Comprising it were two phrases: THERE IS NO SEA WITHOUT A LAND and THERE IS NO LAND WITHOUT A SEA, each illuminated in alternation, every 24 hours. As the creator explains, this served to “highlight the circles of history and the timelessness and universality of refugee catastrophes. In other words, it expresses the need for us to not just look at the past but the present as well as the future as ‘equal’ parts of the flow of time.”
In creating this, he was inspired by the memories of his grandfather. “Our ancestors’ memories often become our own memories. They are invaluable because they connect us both to people we love and to pieces of history. However, we should not always conflate personal accounts with universal truth. Memories are a door or an entrance into History. From there on, it is up to us how we walk the road ahead.”
Bill Balaskas believes that “contemporary visual art is characterized by an oxymoron: It may be a global language, but it is not always perceived in the same way.” And this idea informs his artistic sensitivities: “This is why it is so important for artists as well as curators to take into account not just the unifying and common elements of our world but also the differences. These can sometimes be necessary and fertile, and sometimes divisive. It is, in other words, an exercise in balance.”
Bill Balaskas was born in Thessaloniki in 1983. With initial studies in economics (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), he holds a Ph.D. in Critical Writing in Art and Design and an M.A. in Communication Art and Design from the Royal College of Art.
His work has shown in galleries, museums, festivals and public spaces around the world. Selected exhibitions: Whitstable Biennale (2022), Stegi Onassis Foundation (2021), Stanley Picker Gallery (2019), State of Concept (2019), EMST National Museum of Contemporary Art (2018), Kalfayan Galleries (2017), Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (2016), ARTIUM Museum of Contemporary Art of the Basque Country (2016), Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (2015), Les Chiroux (2015), BOZAR (2014), John Hansard Gallery (2014), Le CENTQUATRE (2014 ), Transmediale (2014), TENT (2014), 4th Thessaloniki Biennale (2013), Talbot Rice Gallery (2012), British Film Institute (2010), National Gallery of Indonesia (2007) and Les Abattoirs (2007).
In 2012, Balaskas represented the United Kingdom at the London Cultural Olympiad and in Maribor, European Capital of Culture, while in 2018 he represented Greece at the Italian memorial exhibition for the centenary of the end of the First World War, in Vittorio Veneto. Further, in 2018 he was selected as one of the four winners of the annual art awards of the European Investment Bank Institute, while he has been nominated for various international awards, including BLOOOM Award of Art Düsseldorf (2019), Constance Fairness Foundation Prize (2015), Prix de la Jeune Scène Artistique Méditerranéenne by the Jean-Luc Lagardere Foundation/HYam (2014), and AUDI Art Award by Art Cologne (2013). In parallel with his artistic practice, his essays have been published in academic and cultural publications such as the Leonardo Electronic Almanac (MIT Press), which he edited between 2012 and 2020, the Journal of Visual Culture, Third Text, Revista Arta and Espace Art Actuel. His most recent books are Fabricating Publics: The Dissemination of Culture in the Post-Truth Era (Open Humanities Press, 2021), and Institution as Praxis: New Curatorial Directions for Collaborative Research (Sternberg Press, 2020).