Beeld – De Grote Inhaalslag

(English below!)

Raul Balai ontwierp de programmabeelden voor De Grote Inhaalslag. Hij is mede-eigenaar van bureau voor visuele communicatie Het IJzeren Gordijn en werkt als autonoom kunstenaar onder de naam El Bastardo. Thema’s in zijn werk zijn cultuur en conflict, hybride identiteiten en politiek. Zijn eigen stijl vormt een mix van schilderkunst, graffiti, fotografie, illustratie en grafisch ontwerp.

De programmabeelden zijn bewerkingen uit het kunstenaarsboek Afo, mi fir bun! (vertaling: Voorouders, ik voel me goed!) dat Raul in 2010 maakte over zwarte identiteit in de Nederlandse context, bestaande uit collages en tekeningen.

About the artist: Raul Balai

Raul Balai (aka El Bastardo) focuses on themes such as cultural clashes, hybridity, exchanges and transformations. He draws inspiration from popular culture and politics, as well as music and art. The visual vocabulary and conceptual framework that Balai applies are formed through the interplay of painting, graffiti, graphic design, illustration and photography. His upbringing in Amsterdam during the eighties and nineties meant that he was influenced heavily by the Hip Hop and House scene of the time. Before going to art academy (at the HKU, Utrecht) he carried out all sorts of odd jobs while painting and drawing at home; and doing graffiti on the streets. This background in graffiti and his education in graphic design can still be identified in Balai’s current practice. Additionally, his multi-ethnic heritage is translated into challenging conventional stereotypes. He pokes fun at the burden of history, plays with prejudices and defies bigotry, all with a nod and a wink.

Afo, mi fir bun!

The origin of the images used for De Grote Inhaalslag is the art book Afo, mi fir bun! (Sranan-Tongo (Surinamese): Ancestors, I feel good!) from 2010. Consisting of three parts of drawings and collages, and accompanied by a letter. The first part is a visual research into Afro-identity in Dutch colonial context. The second part symbolizes transition, the final and third part challenges stereotypes of Afro-identity, plays with popculture and recent Dutch history.

Image 1: Mutantes Based on the transitional part of the book, amongst others using images from the books by British-Dutch soldier John Gabriel Stedman.

Image 2: Xerox Collage combining an image from the book Suriname by Willem van de Poll and family pictures of the artist.

Image 3: Zumbi Honoring those who stood up against slavery in the Americas. Centralized is the bronze head of King Zumbi dos Palmares, as can be found in Brasilia, Brazil.




Artist statement

“I am fascinated by the way the ‘West’ shapes the world, it’s perenial declaration and of the perverse account of history as global fact or truth. How these are present in the everyday and the everywhere, that allow the exploitation of true heritage with colonial and imperial centre partiality; often revised culturally, and the way the media and academia repeats and frames our world as part of the western ‘situation’, its peoples bravado and its countries heroism.“

Full artist statement

One of the main themes of my work is born from my sensitivity as to how cultures remain at a distance created by historical reason and conditions; a clash that results in forms and patterns of hybridity specifically in the realm of the culture of politics, music and art. My heritage is of a multi ethnic background and in my work I often resolve various issues by challenging conventional stereotypes which have been used to describe places of multiplicity. I rework this historical burden by involving the audience in a lighthearted ‘nod and a wink’ manner but underneath this strategy are serious concerns. Strategically I use a number of different styles, genres, to expose and explore what remains at stake within the history of diversities. Ensuring a chatter of ideas and ideals, providing a constant ebb and flow for the context to resonate with the viewer. In refining my visual and conceptual vocabulary I try to reach the intersection between this long history and the mediums that best assist in my explorations, which include painting, graffiti, photography, illustration and graphic design.

I hope to bring through my work new insights for the viewer to consider, starting conversation about decolonization and the remains of the status quo. Key to this enquiry is the question, what is history?, or whose story?, and how does this continually impact the prevailing narratives of the Western world.

My current work is a journey through research about intellectual history, the remorse found within the stereotype, and how the world views the place and effects of the process of ‘orientalising’, of its subjects. The focal point are a series of portraits of people of Chinese origin, which I have used to make an installation using found doors and partitions from destroyed neighbourhoods and suburbs where immigrants had lived. A secondary work are a series of drawings and animation based on ‘traditional’ Cowboy and Indian toys, here the memory of childhood play and its effects are questioned in regards to roles playing and decion-making. Both of these themes have an overriding and suggestive place in our global psyche, very little of it good, mostly detrimental even bad, framed and framing as the other of a ‘we and them’ and/or ‘us versus them’, or more violently as the savage versus the civilised. What seems to be appropriate is to return the Western historical gaze and ask blatantly and humorously, “Are you serious?” by that raising the issue as to how do these images and themes fit into the ‘contemporary western’ world view of itself. Does it fit in? If so, where, how, why and for whom?

Stay tuned.

Raul Balai (Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1980) lives and works in Amsterdam. In recent years he has exhibited at the Biennale Dak’Art, Senegal (2010), M HKA Antwerp (2010), De Schouwburg, Rotterdam (2013), The Amsterdam Museum (2013) and Carrefour des Arts, Larache, Morocco (2013), Framer Framed, Amsterdam (2015). WM Gallery, Amsterdam (2016) Balai is co-owner of the creative agency Het IJzeren Gordijn (The Iron Curtain).