Celebration /ru:t/

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The 10th anniversary since Malta’s accession into the EU has been widely celebrated locally, but beyond all those pretty fireworks on the actual day of the anniversary, these celebrations took a more sober tone with a contemporary art exhibition like /ru:t/.

Currently on at the Malta Maritime Museum in Birgu, /ru:t/, pronounced Root or Route, is a collaborative exhibition aimed at delivering an archaeology of one’s roots to its audience, with engaging results. The eight artists taking part are Adrian Abela, Anna Grima, Charles Balzan, Elisa Von Brockdorff, Karen Caruana, Stephen Vella, Umberto Buttigieg and Victor Agius.

The first room I came upon has a car parked in front of a film projection. Puzzling, until I realized that what is being screened is a drive through Malta shot from a driver’s perspective, while the driver flipped from one radio station to the other. This I took to be serving as a mirror to the cultural reality we now live in; even if accompanied by a mélange of talks about European-funded infrastructural projects and pop music from Maroon 5.

What came next was a reflection on the passing of time, featuring an installation of battery-operated retro clocks hanging by multiple threads. And, on that note, came a sea of tree branches and soil, set in a circular fashion in the middle of the room. Time passes and you go back to your roots. Literally.

In the same room, past there’s a wall full of frames, which lacked any recognisable picture, as if to refer to a potentially forgotten past, but at the same time had “grass” sprouting out of these frames. A spray gun lay at the foot of the frames…to revitalise the past?

Unknowingly, however, I think I left the best for last. In the other hall, paintings of the basic elements of fire, water, earth and air hung beautifully from the ceiling, adorning the room with a very basic feel. This very well-synchronised elemental concept is punctuated, almost conclusively, by the video of Umberto Buttigieg, (who I initially mistook for Kit Hammonds on account of them looking so alike – sorry!), rubbing earthly material all over his body. This screen in particular sits close to a square piece of mudded clothing. Unusual, in a Maltese context perhaps, but very significant on a conceptual level. We all must return to the earth (or roots) from whence we came in the end, if you will.

Oddly, this reminds me of Seamus Heaney’s poetry. Perhaps it’s all those references to soil, earth and mud.

 

/ru:t/ is open till November 14th, at the Malta Maritime Museum in Birgu. Admission to the exhibition is free and between 9—5pm daily.

Monique Chambers

Monique started indulge in 2011 and has since created Indulge Me GIFT and Indulge Me FOOD and volume 1 of The Artists Directory - Malta. A marketing professional by trade, Monique's passion is to promote local talent and Malta in general. Free time is her biggest indulgence, when she can tinker in her craft room or the kitchen, or be selfish with a book, the sofa and good glass of wine (of course, wearing something beautiful and with freshly coiffed hair!)

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