“Bridge-building” is a metaphor for deliberate interactions between communities and people that don’t always meet naturally. It’s used by marriage counsellors, teachers and by peacemakers. However social fragmentation is not as plainly two-sided as a bridge, and this work highlights essential but small, behind-the-scenes connections.
The title of this work, “Political statement not for a t-shirt”, comes from a question I was once asked by an art critic during an exhibition in Moscow. In his view, all art should be political and artists who don’t make political statements should not exhibit. I didn’t agree, and I also question institutional and professional incentives for artists to create political works and events – artists can help, but we are citizens not politicians. I thought maybe the kind of art messaging the critic was looking for is better on t-shirts. Despite that, this artwork fits his criteria and was commissioned by the European Capital of Culture, Pafos 2017.
“Political Statement Not for a T-Shirt” (2017) illuminates the connections, not the lettering. In form, it uses the manufacture of neon signs to describe the complexity of building relationships. The medium is also intentional: neon signs can be filled with either neon or argon gas. Argon means “slow” or “late” in Greek (αργών), while neon (νέον) means “new” or “news”. I used argon, because the work was commissioned for an exhibition in the divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus where peace negotiations between the Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots have dragged on for 50 years. “Bridge-building” is a tired metaphor and this critique would not have been missed by visitors seeing it at the Nicosia Municipal Art Centre situated next to a UN-patrolled buffer zone.