While the global political focus of 2016 revolved around the building of walls, the focus of the artistic programme at Blitz was on breaking them down.
The year saw an impressive array of new collaborations between international and local creatives, showcasing a variety of contemporary art projects. These collaborations created space for the exploration of new ideas, such as the influence of our global digital culture, all the while maintaining specifically Maltese themes. This pendulum-like movement between the old and the new, the local and the global, highlights a detail that lies at the heart of Blitz’s artistic endeavours: to represent the constant state of flux which denotes our time, and our contemporary existence. The method is twofold: an in-house residency programme provides a space for international creatives to engage locally, culminating in a public presentation of each individual project. Alongside the residency programme, Blitz Projects invite collaboration between artists, researchers and organisations with similar cultural interests – with the aim of engaging its audience through workshops, talks, and exhibitions.
Through maintaining a constant flow of ideas that span a myriad of fields, Blitz ensures that there is something to interest just about anyone.
Top: Libby Heaney within the Sensory Apparatus installation; Above: Installation view.
Sensory Apparatus launched the 2016 programme. Three London-based artists, Bonamy Devas, Libby Heaney and Anna Ridler were invited to take part in this exhibition. With much relevance to the contemporary art world today, this exhibition explored artistic ways to question and interrogate our data-driven society and the influence of technology on us as human beings. Sensory Apparatus is further proof of the long-standing synergy between art and science, even more relevant in this day and age, displaying a balance between visual substance and a broad investigation of a subject.
Clockwise from top left: L to R Libby Heaney, Bonamy Devas, Anna Rider; installation view of Sensory Apparatus; the education room; floor talks with the artists of Sensory Apparatus.
Taking a more historical and anthropological approach, You Are What You Eat was a collaboration with aditus foundation, a human rights organisation founded in 2011. Three artists with different backgrounds – Pippin Barr, Aaron Bezzina and Sarah Maria Scicluna – worked closely with curator and founder of Blitz, Alexandra Pace, and researcher Elise Billiard, who came up with historical and anthropological findings and facts about the subject at hand. The works discussed a few significant themes which hit close to home, more so for anyone living in the very insular bubble that is Malta. National identity, culture, immigration, tradition, foreign customs and Malta’s intercultural history are some of the themes the exhibition touches upon. It begs to examine the human condition, questioning where we have come from and what brought us to where we are currently. The aim of the exhibition, a statement which allows room for contemplation and reflection, was to ‘present a collection of works that are indicative of our contemporary existence, while acknowledging that the present is still a consequence of, and bound to, the past’.
The works discussed a few significant themes which hit close to home, more so for anyone living in the very insular bubble that is Malta.
L to R: Aaron Bezzina, Ħelwa Tat-Torque and Sarah Maria Scicluna, Salt Knows No Borders – You Are What You Eat exhibition installation view.
You Are What You Eat also saw the introduction of the Blitz children’s programme. Created in collaboration with Sandra Banthorpe, young visitors participated in a hands-on workshop where they created their own food labels for canned food, learned about the history of the product, and created a supermarket installation which remained in the galleries for the duration of the exhibition.
You Are What You Eat children’s programme.
The final exhibition for the year, G Plan: Made in Malta, curated by Alexandra Pace and Violet Kulewska, with its combination of nostalgia, contemporaneity, and social, industrial and design history, brought such a diverse and enthusiastic audience to Blitz it was extended from 4 to 6 weeks. Alongside the G Plan exhibition was a comprehensive public programme, including floor talks, student visits and a second Children’s Programme, which took the traditional practice of a life-drawing class and give it a new, entertaining approach for children to enjoy and experiment.
G Plan: Made In Malta exhibition installation view.
Clockwise from top left: G Plan: Made In Malta children’s programme; exhibition poster; Violet Kulewska discussing exhibition design and history of furniture design with MCAST students.
2016 also marked the launch of the Blitz Residency Programme, forming one of the organisation’s core artistic programmes.
Through an open call and selection process with a panel of local professionals and artists, three residents were invited to spend a month living and working in a purpose-built, self-contained apartment, within the Blitz building.
Architectural Identities was the culmination of work undertaken by the first resident Scott Lyman, an American artist whose practice focuses on the intersection of aesthetics and social politics through research-based practices. Alluding to its title, the variety of works exhibited questioned the role of the public, as individuals and as a collective, in relation to their surroundings. Malta’s complex and compelling background was the perfect base for this particular investigation. Its history being a collage of various different cultures and traditions.
The second artist in residence, Claire Tolan, is an American based in Berlin. Speculators in Shush was a role-playing game which she developed during her time at Blitz. Local volunteers were invited to be active participants in Speculators in Shush, allowing each a special insight into the project and Claire’s ideas, and becoming a part of the final performance.
Blitz resident artist Claire Tolan (Berlin).
Clockwise from top left: Architectural Identities installation view; Blitz resident artist Scott Lyman, Architectural Identities installation view.
Technology, although ‘positive’ in its advancement of evolution of the human species, is also a major culprit in the damage being done to the planet. The third resident, London-based Harry Sanderson, touched on this with his final work Trash Horizon, which invited the viewer to enter a simulated environment which urges us to question our role as consumers and the waste that is caused by the production of objects that are only of use for a short period of time, before being left to become waste matter that has an effect on our environment. The extent of his research is broad, complex and thorough while the result engaging and interactive.
Trash Horizon by Blitz resident artist Harry Sanderson.
As well as collaborating with local and visiting artists to create sustainable networks and place Maltese contemporary art practice in an international context, Blitz is equally committed to community engagement, through a varied programme of events and activities. In 2016, Blitz hosted talks in the form of public lectures, gallery ‘floor talks’ and panel discussions. All of which encourage dialogue, connection and accessibility, and encourage new ways of thinking and approaching contemporary art.
Diversity and variety is key to a healthy and happy existence, and to all Blitz projects. Blitz aims to sustain these principles in all of its projects, while maintaining a commitment to collaboration and public engagement, as well as a rigorous and engaging exploration of contemporary art practice, in all its forms. We certainly look forward to what 2017 has in store for Blitz. Undoubtably, it will continue to engage its audience and create a space for new and inspiring ideas to emerge.
Words: Andrea Calascione
Andrea is currently part of the Blitz team through the Blitz Internship Programme.