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Building artistic relationships

Transformer Malta to help develop artist-run organisations, contemporary art

Images recorded during the Transformer research residencies in November-December 2017 and January 2018. Photos: Alexandra Pace

Images recorded during the Transformer research residencies in November-December 2017 and January 2018. Photos: Alexandra Pace

A multifaceted, two-year project that started in 2017 is helping to build relationships between Maltese and international artistic networks through a series of cross-border exchanges.

The project, titled Transformer Malta, includes curatorial research, artist residencies, public talks, workshops, an online platform (via transformermalta.com) and a multi-site exhibition in spaces across the country during the European Capital of Culture 2018.

The activities mark a collaboration between project partners from Malta, the UK, Spain, Morocco and Greece, with the aim of building a network which will help develop Artist Run Organisations (AROs) and the contemporary art context in Malta, and also introducing a new online platform.

The focus upon Malta is central to the project’s aspirations and Transformer will work under the guidelines of Valletta 2018 alongside local and international AROs and the artists involved within them.

The competitiveness of the art industry can make it challenging for smaller artists to have their creations exhibited and considering that Malta is such a small island, artists are immediately at a disadvantage.

This is where AROs are vital to the industry. Malta’s very own ARO, Blitz, the only contemporary art space in Valletta that is run by artists, was founded in 2013 and opened its residency programme in 2015 following the success of its application for the Organisation Support Grant, which formed part of the Malta Arts Fund.

Key to expanding the artistic network

The collaborative, project-based organisation is situated in a 400-year-old townhouse which was repurposed into a site to hold exhibitions, space for art residencies and a space for visitors to nurture their curious minds.

Nicole Bearman, programme director at Blitz, says that its collaboration with the Transformer project is “key to expanding the artistic network” and “vital, not only across our current exhibitions but for our future performances and residencies”.

The project is working in partnership with six other AROs across the globe, to bring artists representing their resident organisation’s work to the fore of discussion. Ms Bearman hopes that the multi-site exhibition will “provide links to sites outside of Valletta and allow it [the project] to be mobile and fluid”.

The residency programme at Blitz gives creators a space not only for exhibition purposes but also that of creation, research and discussion.

Blitz’s most recent residencies have given the artists representing the organisation in the Transformer project the opportunity and scope to “research and develop for what will be used within the multi-site exhibition”, Ms Bearman said.

Representing Blitz (and Malta) in this exhibition is Fenêtreproject by Dustin Cauchi and Francesca Mangion.

According to the project’s website, Fenêtreproject is “a practice which analyses and reorganises familiar, recognisable sources. These elements can include mass-produced objects and cultural products including the art object”.

Through the reorganisation of these sourced elements, the project challenges pre-inscribed narratives and creates new narratives that run in parallel.

Besides the multi-site exhibition, another important component of the project is its online platform.

The aim of Transformermalta.com, which is edited by Tom Clark, is to bring contemporary art dialogue and research discussion to the forefront in a new and innovative way.

The research discussion taking place throughout the project will be documented and available to view via Transformer Informal.

The latter features “a discursive programme of interviews, commissioned texts, discussion and events held during the Transformer Artist-residency and Artist Run Organisation project”, which will allow partners and local participants to discuss and expand on the project and its objectives, along with six international artists whose work will feature in the multi-site exhibition.

The exhibition will run from September 1 to October 14. For more information, visit: http://transformermalta.com/

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