National Sculpture Factory and Cork Opera House are delighted to announce Bill Balaskas the winner of the TOYOTAYA Commission for Cork Midsummer Festival 2019. ‘Red Air’ is a new site-specific public art installation by artist Bill Balaskas. For this new artwork, Balaskas will transform into flower beds-pots selected letters of the original TOYOTA signs that were until recently hanging on three sides of the Cork Opera House fly-tower. In this way, the artist aims to reflect on the foremost challenge facing humanity today – climate change.
For a very long time, the automotive industry has been one of the major contributors to this grave threat. At the time when TOYOTA’s vibrant red signs were first installed on the façade of the Cork Opera House, climate change was far less visible than today. As a result, consumers and companies alike adopted for many decades an attitude that underestimated the problem – often wishfully thinking that the consequences of our actions would only be felt after hundreds of years, or that scientists and technologists would find immediate solutions if needed. Although no panacea has emerged since then, technological research has transformed the automotive industry in recent years, through the development of hybrid and electric cars. However, at the same time, scientists are warning us that such reactions might have come “too little, too late”. There is increasing evidence suggesting that we are rapidly approaching critical “tipping points” in the way that human activity is altering our planet’s atmosphere. After crossing those thresholds, climate catastrophe on a global scale would become an inevitability.
‘Red Air’ is inspired by this historical and ideological context. Pairs of the same letters from the TOYOTA signs will create binaries expressing the urgent need to confront climate change and to respond to the dilemmas that we are faced with. In each pair, the first letter will become a flower bed that will host a different type of red flora, while the second letter will be filled with red sand. Furthermore, the letters of each pair will be positioned opposite each other – i.e. facing opposite directions. The planting will adopt the form of a communal activity that would be led by different environmentalist groups and agriculturalists of Cork. The letters will be initially positioned in front of the Cork Opera House, where the planting event will take place on the first day of the Midsummer Festival (Thursday 13 June 2019). Each pair will, then, be donated to a different garden, park, or group and will be transported to their site.