BLITZ 2017A YEAR IN REVIEW
2017 at Blitz – A Year In Review
Themes of repetition, ritual, truth and collective action were on the agenda for Blitz in 2017 through a programme of exhibitions, workshops, and public exchange. Identity and data also emerged as a concern for both Maltese and visiting artists, resulting in a rigorous examination of how we see ourselves and others culturally and historically, from multiple perspectives.
In February, Blitz welcomed our first artist in residence for the year. London-based Nikolas Ventourakis chose to explore the notion of safety from our shores; how opposite and contradictory visions of safe spaces are part of the contemporary political discourse and how these end up being a matter of belief. Through an exhibition of photography and objects, Rituals for our Safety examined a spectrum of actions and rituals, from the deeply personal, to wider reactions of states and societies towards perceived dangers. On both a local and global scale, Ventourakis considered contemporary and historical notions of safety and refuge. Topical events, as well as broader themes, were a springboard for discussion about the term “Keeping us Safe / for our Safety” and what this really means.
Images L to R: Rituals For Our Safety, Nikolas Ventourakis
The beginning of spring saw Blitz’s youngest audience taking part in a hands-on workshop to bring proverbs to life with ‘Say What?!’, presented by Sandra Zaffarese.
Throughout the day, the children discovered proverbs can teach you more about a country’s culture than any textbook, and by cutting and sticking a variety of typography, they created their own placards – taking them to the streets in a mini demo of their own.
Image: Alexandra Pace
Information, its source, integrity, and dissemination has been a contentious topic on both the local and global stage in recent years. Fake news, whistleblowers; who or what do we believe in this complex web of apparent facts? Is art capable of being a medium of truth?
Taking the Orwellian misnomer as a starting point, the Blitz building became a ‘Ministry of Truth’ over April and May for our Truth||Lies exhibition and public programme. Blitz made an open call to the international artist community with an invitation to propose works that affirm the radical nature of art and acknowledge its ability to provoke, make change, subvert truths, expose lies, exact justice and re-imagine worlds.
Curated by Alexandra Pace, Truth||Lies presented a collection of works, performances, and film screenings from Armenoui Kasparian Saraidari, Sara Rees, Giuseppe Torre, Erica Giusta, Guillaume Dreyfuss, Jacques Borg Barthet, Manali Jagtap Nyheim, Tom Bull, Philip Cartelli, Mariangela Ciccarello, Arnold Aganze, Ina Lounguine, Will Henry Carter and Neale Willis.
Video: Truth||Lies, Blitz 2017, curated by Alexandra Pace
The second residency of the year brought an eclectic soundscape to Blitz thanks to the efforts of Berlin-based artists Ducks! – Lani Bagley and Craig Schuftan. Ducks! is an ongoing collaborative project investigating the role played by repetition in music.
Working with field recordings, for Ducks!, any sound or word looped on itself can become a beat, and layered recordings mix with instinct-led vocal performance. For Blitz, Ducks! went out into the streets of Valletta to record sound, held talks, invited participants to collaborate in a workshop event, and gave a unique concert built from the local landscape.
Images / Video: Alexandra Pace
During his residency at Blitz in July, artist Cihad Caner tackled the complexities of some of the largest refugee flows since WWII through the lens of global water crisis. Migration and refugee numbers can be increasingly explained in terms of water scarcity perpetuated by climate change.
What Happens To The Geographical Borders When The Land Itself Moves? is Caner’s interpretation of the ecological, as well as political aspects of water through video, prints, and sculptural installation. In creating this show, Caner collected nearly 500 news articles on the subject and incorporated these into his work for a powerful, data-led viewpoint on an escalating human tragedy.
Image: Alexandra Pace
Collaboration and collective construction was also the concept behind Anna’s Weekend, a five-day workshop for invited participants, followed by a two-day exhibition for the public. Created by Laêtitia Badaut Haussmann – Blitz’s fourth resident artist for 2017 – the site-specific project was designed to develop hybrid, multifunctional furniture for the Blitz space. Laëtitia’s research is based on modern design, its representation, and its failures. Seeing her work as a kind of programme, where process is treated as inquiry – including the story of its own making – the creative process is approached as a critical laboratory.
Images: Alexandra Pace
Maltese artist Aaron Bezzina reinvented the wheel in Athens during September, as part of the inaugural Blitz-Snehta Residency. For the first time, artists living and working in Malta were invited to apply to undertake a one-month residency in Greece, through a new partnership between Blitz and Snehta. Snehta was formed in 2012 in Athens with the purpose of bringing international artists and curators into contact with the Athenian art scene.
Curated by Elena Riga, Bezzina’s sculptural work is informed by the Wheel of Human Life, an icon from the collection of the Byzantine Museum in Athens, and a recurrent motif since antiquity, often used to express the vanity of human earthly life. Both the didactic allegory of the wheel and the idiomatic metaphor “reinventing the wheel” offer a remarkable coherence to the artist’s existential quests about vanity and mortality. By using the wheel, an archetype of human ingenuity, Bezzina examines the essence of artistic gesture and shows a skepticism and sarcasm towards artwork’s ontology and legitimacy.
Images: Aaron Bezzina
Blitz hosted the first major solo show by Maltese artist Kane Cali this December, who invited viewers to end the year reflecting on our identity as a social species, both in tangible human form and as a construction of ephemeral data. Human_Construct is both research project and exhibition, the culmination of two years research and combines raw, tactile materials with technology; our data-hungry age sitting centrally as the catalyst for questions.
By presenting the body as no longer being a vessel for the soul, but rather a structure of tightly compiled systems, Cali introduces the body as an engine; a sum of parts each discernible and dissectible. Cali’s busts are cast in concrete and created through a process of digital scanning and printing. Ceramic objects were slip cast, while glass objects were created through lost wax casting. Marble and concrete relief works came from a collaboration with Reuben Lautier, and a collaboration with FabLab Valletta produced a hologram – a work created purely from light.
Images: Alexandra Pace
To close 2017 and look forward to 2018, we welcomed the first two resident artists for the project Transformer. Kosmas Nikolaou, and Ro Caminal were here on a one month residency for research and development, working towards a multi-site exhibition in September 2018 as part of the European Capital of Culture programme. During their stay they also participated in a panel discussion with Tom Clark, a London-based writer, editor and curator who is developing the project’s online platform.
Transformer is a multifaceted, two-year endeavour, presented by Blitz in collaboration with Central Saint Martins, and the University of the Arts, London. Working with partners from Malta, the United Kingdom, Spain, Morocco, and Greece, the aim is to build a network which will help develop Artist Run Organisations (AROs) and the contemporary art context in Malta. Transformer focuses on the dynamic generated by AROs and their engagement with contingencies of the present, engendering artistic discourse via artists-based research activities in-situ. Transformer institutes a ground-up, grassroots, sustainable and long-lasting interchange; nurturing, developing and extending the activity of the Maltese contemporary art scene, widening its sphere of influence, and embedding it within European and international communities of practice. The project includes curatorial research, artist residencies, a website, public talks, workshops and a multi-site exhibition in spaces across Malta during the 2018 European Capital of Culture year.
Transformer is supported by the Multi-Annual Support Grant, Arts Council Malta, The British Council and is part of the European Capital of Culture Programme. Read more about Transformer here.
[words: Holly Knowles]