Motivated by the intersections between global politics, cultural authority and art history, Berlin-based conceptual artist Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck, part-cultural critic, part-researcher archivist, inhabits a myriad of roles in his work, and yet is largely unseen. Working in a range of different media to expose often provocative sociopolitical issues, he remains very much the hidden hand, as Kevin Jones discovered at the artist’s recent show at Green Art Gallery in Dubai.
First, flick through the titles of some Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck works. Let them sink in. Israeli Nuclear Arsenal (2004–13). Modern Entanglements, U.S. Interventions (2006–09). Cultural Diplomacy: An Art We Neglect (2007–13). The Last Oil Barrel (a work conceived but which, its value dependent on future oil prices, can never be activated). Electoral Autocracy (2012–16). Homeland’s Agenda (2016). Instrumentalized (2017). Next, consider his sites of predilection. Propaganda. The Cold War (which, for him, hasn’t really ended – it’s just experiencing a lull). The uncomfortable bedfellows of international oil and modern art. The atomic bomb. Mass media and manufacturing consent. The global politics of economics and war. Hidden (or not so hidden) agendas.