Bill Balaskas: 2291

Bill Balaskas: 2291

Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki

September 8, 2022
Bill Balaskas
July 20–September 15, 2022
“Trauma, History and Public Art” conference: September 13, 4–7pm, BST, online
Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki
6 Manoli Andronikou Street
546 21 Thessaloniki

T +30 231 331 0201

2291 is a new interdisciplinary project by Greek London-based artist Bill Balaskas, inspired by the centenary of the Asia Minor Catastrophe (1922). Its epicentre is a neon installation exhibited in the gardens of the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, and it is accompanied by a bilingual publication, two workshops, a mentorship scheme for young creatives, a website, and an international conference organized by Kingston University, London. The project is produced by Ergon-Culture and presented in the context of the 2022 edition of the program “All of Greece, One Culture” of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports.

The Asia Minor Catastrophe—the mass uprooting of Greeks in Asia Minor by the Ottoman Empire—defined the modern history of Thessaloniki, as the city became a major destination for refugees during its aftermath. By reversing the digits of the Catastrophe’s date, 2291 invites the Greek and international public to position the events of the Catastrophe, as well as what led to it and what followed, within a context of constant change, like the one that characterizes par excellence Greek history and the Mediterranean. The neon installation in the gardens of the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki creates a changing public space, as it oscillates between light and darkness through night and day, and through the 24-hour cyclical alternation of the installation’s illuminated phrase, which occurs at midnight of each day: “THERE IS NO SEA WITHOUT A LAND” and “THERE IS NO LAND WITHOUT A SEA”.

The artist is inspired by the personal memories of his grandfather, who was 11 years old at the time of the Burning of Smyrna (Izmir) and fled with thousands of refugees to Greece. Through the title of the work, Balaskas focuses not on his grandfather’s descriptions relating to the trauma of the uprooting and the persecutions, but rather on his descriptions referring to the future: the anticipation of the voyage of salvation, the hope of arrival and, later, his continuous belief in building a better future for himself, his family, and his new home.

In the end, 2291 becomes an imaginary date that refers not only to the tragic events of 1922 or to the universal character of refugee disasters, but, above anything else, to the hope that they will disappear sooner rather than later.

Conference (online): September 13, 4–7 pm BST / 6–9 pm Greek time (MS Teams).
Panels include Bill Balaskas in conversation with Elizabeth Price, as well as contributions by Angeliki Koukouvou, Giulia Colletti, Nansy Charitonidou, and Jonathan Kimberley. Chair: Alistair Payne.

For the full program and to register, please use the RSVP link, or visit the project’s website.

The artist
Bill Balaskas (b. 1983, Thessaloniki) is an artist, theorist and academic. Using a variety of media, Balaskas explores contemporary political issues and their connections with the visual culture of globalization. In 2012, he represented the United Kingdom at the London Cultural Olympiad and in Maribor, European Capital of Culture, while in 2018 he represented Greece at Italy’s memorial exhibition for the World War I centenary. In 2018, he was selected as a winner of the 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 (2014), and AUDI Art Award of Art Cologne (2013). Balaskas has received commissions by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona (MACBA), John Hansard Gallery, Jewish Museum of London, and Cork Opera House, amongst others. He is represented by Kalfayan Galleries, Athens-Thessaloniki. 

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). With initial studies in economics, he holds a PhD and an MA from the Royal College of Art. Balaskas is Director of Research, Business and Innovation at the School of Arts of Kingston University, London.

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Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki
September 8, 2022

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