Culture, 2013

Miami Beach 2014
Kalfayan Galleries
Installation view: 4th Thessaloniki Biennale, Greece, 2013.
Bill Balaskas Culture, 2013 Installation view: 4th Thessaloniki Biennale, Greece, 2013. Mixed media installation Edition of 3 + 2 a.p. Dimensions variable Courtesy Kalfayan Galleries, Athens - Thessaloniki. The arts have not remained unaffected by the unprecedented economic crisis that still lingers: parts of the art market have shrunken, severe budget cuts are implemented by art institutions and artists face increasing difficulty in their effort to produce new work and support themselves. In many cases, it is evident that culture is not a priority for policymakers, as well as for many people around the world who struggle to satisfy some of their most basic needs. The neon sculpture 'Culture' reflects on this situation, by not being able to perform its major function: lighting up. The source of its power (the socket) appears too far to be reached. Inevitably, then, in order for 'Culture' to shine, either the work should be moved closer to the source of power, or some extra element has to be added between the neon’s cable and the socket, in order to establish a connection. At the same time, by being written with antique lettering, the work also alludes to other aspects of the crisis. Thus, 'Culture' could be perceived as a reference to the Greek crisis and the way it has redefined Greece’s image as a global symbol of socioeconomic failure. Or, perhaps, one could associate the work with Latin and the case of Italy, which has played its own role in the European crisis. Finally, one could add another level of interpretation associated with the evidently “kitsch” aesthetic of the work, which imitates an ancient visual style through a banal contemporary material. In this context, the work may constitute an invitation to rethink the (visual) culture of the pre-crisis era and reexamine its true value. At a time when the extravagant, consumerist lifestyle of the recent past seems largely out of place, art should make a stance by calling for simplicity, directness, “honesty” and, in the end, elemental beauty.