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Bill Balaskas

PhD Work

Mapping Utopian Art: Alternative Political Imaginaries in New Media Art (2008-2015)

This thesis investigates the proliferation of alternative political imaginaries in the Web-based art produced during the global financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath (2008-2015), with a particular focus on the influence of communist utopianism. The thesis begins by exploring the continuous relevance of utopianism to Western political thought, including the historical context within which the financial crisis of 2008 occurred. This context has been defined by the new political, social and cultural milieu produced by the development of Data Capitalism – the dominant economic paradigm of the last two decades. In parallel, the thesis identifies the "organic" connections between leftist utopian thought and networked technologies, in order to claim that the events of 2008 functioned as a catalyst for their reactivation and expansion. Following this analysis, the thesis focuses on how politically engaged artists have reacted to the global financial crisis through the use of the World Wide Web. More specifically, the thesis categorises a wide range of artworks, institutional and non-institutional initiatives, as well as theoretical texts that have either been written by artists, or have inspired them. The result of this exercise is a mapping of the post-crisis Web-based art, which is grounded on the technocultural tools employed by artists as well as on the main concepts and ideals that they have aimed at materialising through the use of such tools. Furthermore, the thesis examines the interests of Data Capitalists in art and the Internet, and the kinds of restrictions and obstacles that they have imposed on the political use of the Web in order to safeguard them. Finally, the thesis produces an overall evaluation of the previously analysed cultural products by taking into account both the objectives of their creators and the external and internal limitations that ultimately shape their character. Accordingly, the thesis locates the examined works within the ideological spectrum of Marxist and post-Marxist thought in order to formulate a series of proposals about the future of politically engaged Web-based art and the ideological potentialities of networked communication at large.

MA work

I am more interested in the approach towards the subjects addressed in my videos and installations than in the subjects themselves as ‘observations’ or ‘facts’. Thus, the idea that predominates is that of subversion. Images and situations drawn from everyday visual culture are subjected to processes of fragmentation (both literally and metaphorically) and irony. Those concepts often adopt a playful schema in which the ‘truth’ of an image or situation is ‘there’, but it is never solid enough to decode with certainty.

Info

  • PhD

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    Critical Writing in Art & Design–2017

  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Communication

    Programme

    MA Visual Communication, 2010

  • In recent years, I have produced a body of work that reflects on the nature of economic systems and their socio-political implications. Having studied economics before deciding to leave Greece in order to study art, I have always had a strong interest in developing a dialogue between my background and my artistic practice. Following the global financial crisis of 2008, this led me to the production of  several new works that experiment with a variety of media and materials, ranging from neon to video and from fabric to net art. At the same time, and as the economic crisis deepened, the role of the European South in my practice became more prominent, given that the countries of the Mediterranean have been increasingly portrayed as global symbols of socio-economic failure. This fact gave me the opportunity to lend stronger elements of self-reflection and personal identity to many of my works. As a result, my interest gradually shifted from economic issues to their cultural origins, and the deep connections that they bear with the turbulent events that are currently affecting many parts of a thoroughly globalised world. Those very preoccupations also lie at the core of my work in critical theory, as I view my artworks and my writings as a unified cultural practice.

  • Degrees

  • BSc Economics, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 2004; BA (Hons) Video Arts Production, University for the Creative Arts, 2008; MA (RCA) Communication Art & Design, Royal College of Art, 2010