Four Maltese artists are participating in the group exhibition un/mute, whose participation is funded and co-ordinated by Arts Council Malta with the kind support of the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Malta to the UN. The opening event took place on Thursday 23rd September and included a speech by Hon Evarist Bartolo. The works will be on display until January 2022.
un/mute is the physical manifestation of online conversations among strangers who became collaborators. What began as abstract, ephemeral and digital are now 14 tactile, analog and concrete artworks presented across two locations. The artists confronted the parameters imposed by the lockdowns and each team found creative solutions that we might all learn from. The common thread that runs through the sculptures, installations, films, drawings, photographs and performances is the importance of language.
Ever-evolving, language encapsulates an innate power dynamic that is renegotiated, redistributed and reimagined in uncertain times. While words like “screenshare,” “Zoom-bombing” and “unmute” enter a universal lexicon, and “#relatable” memes are shared across cultures, we also face the limits of language as we work to avoid miscommunication and misunderstanding. Cultures and countries apart, the artists endeavored to find a bridge across two points in (virtual) space through the ephemeral Zoom link. What they also discovered were empathy from a fellow artist, discussions that sparked new ideas, a shared language around the creative process and a rethinking of the power of art.
With cities re-opening, a recontextualized focus on systemic racism and xenophobia, and our collective experience of 18 months of self-reflection, un/mute observes the transition into a new epoch – one that imagines an inclusive and diverse ecosystem. Differences may surface in times of cooperation and compromise, but synergy can be forged through friction. We trip, we regain our balance, we shift, we reconsider. What is crucial is that when we do have the chance to rise to meet the moment, we seize the opportunity and “click unmute.
The four local participating artists (who collaborated with other international artists for this project), are:
Mariella Cassar-Cordina and Tricia Dawn Williams (Malta) + Nicola Ginzel (Austria)
Sonos Civitatem MMXX
Composer Mariella Cassar-Cordina and mixed media installation artist Nicola Ginzel explore the physicality of their respective mediums in their artistic practices. “Sonos Civitatem MMXX” is a collaborative film that brings together Ginzel’s frottage works and Cassar-Cordina’s textured musical language. Frottage is a process of rubbing -- an intimate interaction between surface, paper and artist where our sense of touch reports and gives agency to our sight. There is a shared sensuality that emanates from the drawings, the intimate way in which the camera interprets the drawings and the use of the piano as both percussive and string instrument. Just as Cassar-Cordina’s recorded sounds are created in an untraditional pianist manner so are many of Ginzel’s rubbings. Cassar-Cordina uses loose strings to physically rub the stationary piano strings inside the grand piano’s body and includes pre-recorded sounds of Maltese soundscapes and Ginzel’s motivational utterances, while many of Ginzel’s frottages originate from her own technique of hand stitching “everyday ephemera” with thread. These repeated movements of traction, with strings and surfaces, demand our focus and create a meditative stillness within ourselves. The piece is an organic dialogue via Zoom. The artists investigate how to communicate the tactile into the ephemeral and then into a mediated piece that harkens back to the analog and concrete. We decry the “innovations” when the “real” is lost, whether it is a live performance versus a recording, or a vinyl record versus a digital file. This work reminds us that in navigating a “new normal,” some things may be lost but other things are gained. (MW)
Aaron Bezzina (Malta) + Kyle Hittmeier (NY)
Double Catapult and Andromeda
Throughout the pandemic, our virtual worlds might as well have been infinite space, distanced by the experience of our lives existing solely online. The sculptural works of Aaron Bezzina and Kyle Hittmeier create a space of rehabilitation, seizing humour, duality, and time. Ironically, these medieval, war-like sculptures of a double catapult and digitally rendered flags, germinated from conversations about space and post-intimacy. Made from readily available lumber and fasteners, the hand built, primitive catapult opposes another one, where two individuals can sit, face to face -- eye to eye, one can also imagine two laptops facing one another. Modelled virtually, the artists chose only to include the animation of the digital flags, waving in the air, acting as identifiers to the projectiles and simultaneously breathing life into the inanimate catapult. A catapult is not a firearm, it does not need gunpowder or other propellants and rather uses potential energy. This physical stored tension parallels the virtual; we launch Zoom meetings hurling ourselves into the virtual/online abyss where much of our identities are swallowed up. The absurdity of launching our physical bodies acts as a Vanitas reminding us of our impending mortality, while appropriately allowing us a much-needed slapstick chuckle when imagining our bodies projecting through infinity.
Alex Camilleri (Malta) + Terttu Uibopuu (Estonia)
From a shared love of documentary film and photo, Alex Camilleri and Terttu Uibopuu present “76% Humidity, Chance of Rain,” a film that celebrates the beauty in our daily lives. The rustle of flags, walking down the street with a loved one, a child blowing bubbles, the delicious anticipation of waiting for takeout -- all are examples of the small moments we perhaps once took for granted. The film is a co-authored poem of observational videos, a city symphony. Utilizing a two-channel format and connected through sound, the images are in dialogue, then in conflict; they sync, then one takes over; they clash, then harmonize. The film is both an example of, and a metaphor for, the process of collaboration. Through the artists’ shared visual language, they create a bridge between cultures, spoken languages, artistic mediums and physical space.
Austrian Cultural Forum New York, 11 East 52nd Street, New York, NY
Undercurrent, 70 John Street, Brooklyn, NY
Learn more about this project: www.unmute.nyc
Dates: September 2021 – January 2022
Co-curated by Daina Mattis and Melinda Wang
Organized by EUNIC in collaboration with ‘Undercurrent NY’
ABOUT EUNIC NEW YORK
EUNIC – European Union National Institutes for Culture – is the European network of organizations working in 90 countries worldwide through a network of 125 clusters and acting as a platform for promoting European values, sharing knowledge, building capacity amongst its members and partners, and engaging local partners in dialogue and common cultural projects. Created in 2007, the New York cluster of EUNIC, bringing together around 40 cultural missions from the European Union, is working in partnership to strengthen the transatlantic dialogue and cultural cooperation and showcase European values and creativity. Arts Council Malta is a member of EUNIC and the New York cluster.