Published on Friday 5 April 2019

Inspired by the Odyssey, Homer’s literary legacy capturing a common human narrative, Maleth / Haven / Port - Heterotopias of Evocation is Malta’s Pavilion at the 58th International Art Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia

Malta emerged from hibernation mode in 2017, with Homo Melitensis: An Incomplete Inventory in 19 Chapters, an installation that timely questioned what it means to be Maltese.

This year, set up in the Arsenale, art historian Dr Hesperia Iliadou de Subplajo-Suppiej, is curating a new conceptual exhibition with a production team including George Lazoglou (multi-media design), Matthew Casha (architectural and special design) and three exhibitors; Klitsa Antoniou, Trevor Borg and Vince Briffa.  

A collaboration that will present intensely suggestive narratives focusing on the heterotopia, an uncomfortable space within a space. By compressing a multitude of stories, built layer upon layer as sediment in our own very fabric of existence, the work will resonate within our collective psyches, reflecting the tension in each individual.

Translated into unconscious needs, human duality becomes manifest in times of crises with migratory patterns: mass exodus, immigration, exile and refuge seeking. Maleth, a Semitic word for safety or shelter, is represented by the Port as Haven. The port as start and end to the long and eventful journey of mankind, tying back to the Odyssey. A journey inviting the audience to look within, within all that is disturbing, disquieting.

A series of artist and curator-led educational workshops with students have been sustaining the artistic research. The artists engage the participants in a semantic dialogue with an entrenched reality – man’s need to search for home and for freedom. With OUTLAND, video art, Vince Briffa traces the journey of a lover, as liberator-oppressor. This duality becomes a continuously shifting and anxious presence in a multi-media installation that mediates the relation between safety (familiar ties) and instability (freedom).

Longing, for liberation or for home also creates an undercurrent in Klitsa Antoniou’s ATLANTROPA X, another multi-media installation. Named after the 1920s radical project, by German architect Herman Sörgel, to partially drain the Mediterranean Sea and create a Eurafrican supercontinent, it aims to bridge the divide between utopic dreams, dystopias and reality. The installation challenges the condition of being human, of conflict and traumatic invasions on all fronts. Of wounds and scars as they sear through memory creating a fluid topography that maps separations, rejections, repressions and loss.

CAVE OF DARKNESS - PORT OF NO RETURN is a site-specific installation using a non-classificatory collection approach.  Trevor Borg re-imagines the remains of long lost creatures and artefacts as he manipulates memory and journeys into the collective abyss within the haven. With a newly fabricated pre-historic narrative, he explores entrapment and concealment, the real and the imagined.  

The works will present a timeless story, pulling us forward and backwards, defining ancient and contemporary ways of being and living in an ever changing world, an ever moving earth.