Artists in Residences made a return this year after two years of cancellations and postponements due to the Covid-19 pandemic. These residencies are based in the context of a growing cultural creative scene in Malta in line with Spazju Kreattiv’s aim of being a catalyst for contemporary art in Malta and allowing for international collaboration. The residency programme aims to enrich cultural diversity within Malta’s creative scene by encouraging encounters and exchanges between international and Maltese artists, the creative collaborators and communities as well as physical and virtual environments.
The programme this season commenced with Cedrine Scheidig (France), a French-Caribbean photographer and videographer based in Paris, France. Cédrine worked on INSULAR, a project which creatively investigated the lives of new migrant workers living on the peripheries of Valletta. Scheidig focused on the way migration and mobility constantly reshape the visual imaginaries of the city, and she explored themes of identity, diaspora and cultural hybridisation within the specific topography and temporality of the Maltese landscape.
In collaboration with Alliance Francaise de Malte & Ambassade de France à Malte, YUNIS and Laura Besançon (Egypt & France), co-created a piece together which was later on exhibited in Space B. During their residency, these artists explored traditional Egyptian mythologies, rituals and material culture – particularly the use of archaic, anthropomorphic dolls as praxis during rituals. The research was appropriated for a new contemporary context, and of a performative, participatory and visual installation as part of the Night of Ideas: Creating Together initiative.
Anatomy of a Viral Landscape with artist Rebecca di Domenico (USA) supported by the U.S. Embassy in Malta was a residency which translated into an exhibition at the Atrium. The artist interpreted maps as flat renderings of 3 Dimensional landscapes. They delineate countries, continents, states and bodies of water. In her practice, Rebecca DiDomenico cuts through layers of code to rearrange geography.
The maps separate and unite simultaneously. We live in times where wars are fought between countries over geographical and political boundaries and are currently facing a worldwide pandemic of unprecedented proportions. And yet, we are all interconnected on our singular planet spinning in space. The world we inhabit is rendered in Anatomy of a Viral Landscape as ephemeral networks with intricate interconnections, similar to the veins inside our bodies. The paths we traverse are both intentional journeys and the inevitable misadventures of unintended side trips. All become part of our destinies, the forks we choose and those we leave behind. We live in the gaps, in the interzones. There is no polarity of black and white or good and bad.
Later in March we hosted performance artist Yasen Vasilev (Bulgaria) who with his project NUTRICULA | Impossible actions worked with local performers through a series of tasks that aim to test and re-imagine the limits and functions of the body and deconstruct (un)conscious habits of movement.
This work aims to liberate the body and its movements from meanings imposed on them. The workshop included movement exercises, critical discussions, creative writing and an introduction to the structure of the physical solo.
The residencies continued in Gozo with Lara Lepionka (USA). She’s a community-based artist and the founder and executive director of Backyard Growers, a non-profit organisation connecting people to healthy food through school, community, and backyard gardens. Her residency was a collaboration with the communities of Gozo, more specifically in Għarb, engaging around ideas of culture, history, growing food, and sharing meals through the lens of climate change and changing economics and priorities. A thread that emerged through all of the interviews Lepionka carried out, were issues regarding land use and the many impacts of over development on Malta’s land, culture, and environment, resulting in hand-embroidered construction vehicles and cranes onto felt “grow bags” and then planted them with vegetable and herb seedlings.
Roland Farkas (Slovakia) arrived in July. He’s an inter-media artist based in Budapest and his work concentrates on the mechanisms of social inequities and the value of human life in contemporary society. His project focused on the accelerating changes of present-day culture with particular attention to the imagined future. Based on assembled oral histories, current lifestyle, architectural elements, and narrated futuristic visions, he generated a mixture of both traditional and fictional visual imagery of the city.
Kanthy Peng (China) is an artist who specialises in lens-based mediums and her work ‘Floating Gardens’ is a forthcoming essay film. This project, made possible through the support of the China Cultural Centre in Malta, aimed to highlight the critical function of Malta’s gardens, most notably Malta’s Chinese Garden of Serenity, in fostering cross-cultural exchange, communication, and ways of life. During the four-week residency, Peng vivified Malta’s gardens by utilising various creative forms, including archival research, collaborative performance with the local community, and improvisation, and by drawing on her many years of experience in creating participatory projects. In the Chinese Garden of Serenity, Peng conducted and documented two workshops, including performative garden tours, interviews with local residents, and conversations with scholars from the University of Malta, and subsequently published her in-production film clips at an artist talk at the conclusion of the residency.
During the summer months, another two residencies were carried out. After several postponements due to the pandemic, Andrea Botto (Italy) came to Malta in August. He’s an Italian photographer and lecturer interested in the cross-pollination of various contemporary art mediums. He uses photography as a means of dissecting the world in order to express its complexity and to expose its stratifications. His project investigated the design of the typical Maltese bombs and the mechanized ground fireworks, seen in their sculptural plasticity: mortars, shell bombs, temporary structures of different size made by wood and recycled paper, most of the times arranged like art installations during the village feasts looking deeper into Maltese fireworks, their history and tradition.
His research work looked to renew and give new meanings and possibilities to an ancient tradition, using time as a trigger between image as sculpture and sculpture as image: the ephemeral time of a light effect or a picture on one side and the long-life time of a sculpture on the other.
Lastly, Sigrun Drapatz and Kiki Gebauer (Germany) participated in our residency programme later in August and September. Gebauer’s main themes of her artistic work are signs and reflections, which she presents in large-scale installations in public spaces, among other things. Drapatz’s works on topics such as religion, migration and narratives. Her works are developed site-specific and often by direct involvement of communities. Their project focused on Malta as a strategic base for shipping, trade and military in the Mediterranean. With Spazju Kreattiv’s support, both artists met experts in Malta’s topographical, botanical, historical, heritage and architectural fields. And, their goal was to create a map of Gozo as a “handout” to residency guests which would bear their tracks.
Spazju Kreattiv Artists’ Residency programme is organised in collaboration with the Valletta Design Cluster and the Ministry for Gozo.