Bill Balaskas: Farewell to thee

Bill Balaskas: Farewell to thee

Phoenix Leicester

Bill Balaskas, Farewell to thee (detail), 2019. Mixed-media installation, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist.

March 4, 2019
Bill Balaskas
Farewell to thee
March 7–April 14, 2019
Opening: March 7, 6–8pm
Phoenix Leicester
4 Midland Street
Leicester LE1 1TG
United Kingdom

T +44 116 242 2800
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Phoenix is pleased to present Farewell to thee—a new site-specific installation by acclaimed interdisciplinary artist Bill Balaskas.

In Farewell to thee (2019), Balaskas is inspired by the US-North Korea crisis and, more specifically, by a ballistic missile alert that was issued in the State of Hawaii on January 13, 2018. The threat was communicated to Hawaiians through mobile phone messages, and it necessitated taking immediate shelter in order to try to survive the imminent nuclear catastrophe. Thirty-eight minutes later, another notification on their phones and on electronic sign boards informed Hawaiians that the initial message that they had received was a false alarm. 

Unsurprisingly, however, the alert had already caused widespread panic, with people sharing their fear and confusion on social media. Soon after, the state’s authorities announced that the person responsible for the turmoil was an employee who had “pushed the wrong button.” Ironically, this was an announcement that evoked a statement made just a few days earlier by Donald Trump regarding the size and force of his “nuclear button”—a war of words conducted by the American President almost exclusively on Twitter.

Balaskas adopts this incident as a point of departure in order to reflect on the relationship between new media, spectacle and contemporary politics. Combining a variety of visual references, Balaskas highlights the absurdity of today’s world, in which the prospect of nuclear war has returned to the everyday lives of millions of people. 

Farewell to thee constitutes a poignant study of the grave contradictions of this world, where information and knowledge are more widely available than ever, yet old, “irrational” threats grow stronger. The recent withdrawal of the US from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (February 1, 2019), and Russia’s reaction through its plans to develop new missile systems, exemplify this perilous reality.

* “Farewell to thee” (“Aloha ‘Oe”) is the most famous Hawaiian song, and a global cultural symbol of leisure.

About Bill Balaskas
Bill Balaskas (b. 1983, Thessaloniki, Greece) is an artist, theorist and educator. His works have been widely exhibited internationally, in galleries, museums, festivals and public spaces. Recent exhibitions include: MACBA, Barcelona; BOZAR, Brussels; National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST), Athens; CA2M, Madrid; Transmediale, Berlin; Le CENTQUATRE, Paris; John Hansard Gallery, Southampton; ARTIUM, Vitoria-Gasteiz; Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Athens; TENT, Rotterdam; Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, New York; Thessaloniki Biennale; Musée des Abattoirs, Toulouse; and the British Film Institute, London. Recent lecture-performances and talks include Tate Liverpool; University of Oxford; Sharjah Biennial; Goldsmiths University, London; Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg; Central Saint Martins, London; Warburg Haus, Hamburg; De Bijloke Muziekcentrum, Ghent; and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Balaskas has received awards from the European Investment Bank Institute; Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art; European Cultural Foundation; Open Society Institute; and the Association of Art Historians. In parallel with his artistic practice, he is an editor for the Leonardo Electronic Almanac (The MIT Press), while his writings have also appeared in edited books and academic journals. Originally trained as an economist, he holds a PhD in Critical Writing and an MA in Communication Art & Design from the Royal College of Art. Balaskas is an Associate Professor at Nottingham Trent University, and an advisor to Arts Council England (MHECF).

About Phoenix
Phoenix is Leicester’s centre for independent cinema, art and digital culture. Taking place in the Cube Gallery, across public spaces at Phoenix and beyond, our art and digital programme presents exhibitions by renowned artists from across the world, for free. As technology becomes a bigger part of our everyday lives, digital culture offers new ways of looking at the world, helping us make sense of things, and challenging us to think differently. Phoenix is currently developing a 7 million GBP expansion, which will be completed in 2020. Our art programme is supported by Arts Council England and De Montfort University.

The exhibition is kindly supported by Nottingham Trent University.

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Phoenix Leicester
March 4, 2019

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