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Spazju Kreattiv: time for something new

What you can expect during the 2018/19 programme of events

Marsapolis: one of the films to be screened during the Rima Film Festival in October.

Marsapolis: one of the films to be screened during the Rima Film Festival in October.

Last night, Spazju Kreattiv launched its 2018/19 programme packed full of music, visual arts, cinema, drama and more. Here, artistic director Toni Sant talks exclusively to Jo Caruana about why it’s hoped that this year’s line-up will prove to be a hit with more people than ever.

It’s one of the times of year I look forward to most: the announcement of the artistic events we can expect in the months to come.

Over at Spazju Kreattiv, their programme of events has just been unveiled and plenty has been packed into the next few months to ensure audiences have a varied calendar to enjoy.

Spearheading that is Toni Sant, Spazju Kreattiv’s artistic director. Planning the programme is a responsibility he embraces. “We want to make it worthwhile,” he says. “And as a team we all wade into choosing the projects we believe our audiences will be attracted to. Personally, I call on my creative experience across the sectors of broadcast media, art curation, archives, digital technology and education, which helps me to consider a spectrum of options when making decisions.”

In fact, Dr Sant is known for ‘speaking the language’ of various types of operators within the creative sector fluidly, enabling them to communicate their ideas appropriately – both to Spazju Kreattiv, as their collaborators, and to the new audiences they may be seeking to reach.

Today, after some years of establishing itself, Sant believes Spazju Kreattiv will continue to be a catalyst for contemporary creativity in Malta. “I think this programme highlights that. Plus, our organisation has now also turned its attention to another part of its founding purpose, which involves cultural heritage along with the production of new work. We have become a national beacon for the preservation and promotion of contemporary cultural heritage, which aligns well with our more established role of facilitating projects and engaging with various forms of creative expression,” he says.

This is a result guided by the strategic vision set forth for Spazju Kreattiv in 2014, which underlines the concepts of identity, diversity and legacy to guide everything it does. As Sant explains, Spazju Kreattiv has a clear identity, which it extends in an inclusive way towards different audiences, while being constantly mindful that cultural heritage is not only something associated with the past but a present it also builds on everyday for future generations.  

After all, Spazju Kreattiv’s role is to be exactly what it says on the tin: a creative space. “And that’s what it does,” Sant continues. “It provides space – whether physical, temporal, creative or professional, to creatives, to allow them to develop their work. And while we do place focus on cultural heritage, the work produced here is also very contemporary, with visual arts, performing arts and cinema, as well as other projects that do not necessarily fit within these conventional descriptions.”

We are now a national beacon for the preservation of contemporary cultural heritage

And that leads us neatly onto the new programme, which was launched last night at Spazju Kreattiv itself. “It’s a full season,” Sant goes on to say, adding that there will be a mix of visual arts, theatre and arthouse films to name but a few. “The visual arts programme is really strong – opening with Nisġa, featuring some of the foremost 20th century Maltese artists and Remembering the Future: Digital Art in Malta (1989–2019). It will continue with shows by emerging names, such as Julinu, James Micallef Grimaud and Letta Shtorr, as well as more established artists like Patrick Fenech and David Pisani.

“Theatrewise we are co-producing two new works, which is an exciting step forward. One will be De-Terminated, written by Herman Grech, and the other will be Repubblika Immakulata by Du Theatre. Meanwhile, we will be continuing many of the initiatives that have proved popular in the past, like Art Additives and Taħdita Teatru, while also strengthening our cinema selection thanks to our new cinema coordinator Cathleen Tanti.”

Agnés Varda's Faces Places, from the Agnés Varda season in October.Agnés Varda's Faces Places, from the Agnés Varda season in October.

Among the many highlights, including Rima: to be [defined] – an exhibition about migration and exile - Sant picks the event he is looking forward to most: Spazju Kreattiv’s participation in the 2019 Ostrale Contemporary Art Biennale in Germany next summer. “It follows on from the immensely successful Ostrale exhibition we had in Valletta in June and July, providing artists from Malta with an opportunity to have their work included in this wonderful event for contemporary art in Germany,” he says. “International engagement is something we hold as a benchmark for the projects we include on the Spazju Kreattiv programme, and we are constantly looking for opportunities to export work from Malta to other countries.”

To ensure that this happens proactively, rather than waiting for opportunities to drop into the team’s laps, Spazju Kreattiv seeks partnerships with relevant networks and similar operators in the creative sector outside Malta, and Ostrale is one such organisation. “We have now engaged with them for the past two years, particularly by presenting works from their programmes during the last two editions of VIVA – the Valletta International Visual Arts festival. Such work is precisely one of the main aims of VIVA. So, making all the necessary arrangements to present work by some 12 artists from Malta – who are either Maltese or have a strong working relationship with Spazju Kreattiv – in Germany at the 2019 Ostrale Biennale for Contemporary Art is clear indication that VIVA serves a very specific function that is of great benefit to the contemporary art scene in Malta. I expect that this, in turn, will also make the next edition of VIVA even more relevant than the previous editions have already proven themselves to be.”

Meanwhile, aside from focusing on the programme, there are other new aspects to look forward to, as the building itself has been updated over the summer. “All our venues are now air-conditioned and we have updated our cinema surround sound system and the theatre lighting technology. We have a fantastic team that can now care for the building properly, so people will be able to enjoy our programme more comfortably.”

Finally, aside from being Spazju Kreattiv’s artistic director, Sant explains that he is a digital curator and researcher in media archaeology – a field in which he has now been active for 20 years, most recently as director of film and digital media at the University of Salford’s School of Arts and Media at MediaCityUK. “This summer I started researching histories of digital art in Malta with Vince Briffa, who is not only one of Malta’s foremost contemporary artists but also head of the Department of Digital Arts at the University. We presented our initial findings at Spazju Kreattiv during the DRHA 2018 conference in September and, over the coming months, hope to tie this research in with a similar project I’m working on with Spazju Kreattiv for Fondazzjoni Kreattività’s permanent art collection.”

According to Sant, the ultimate goal for that collection is to produce an online catalogue for the collection that is fully accessible to the public, along with a handsome coffee-table book about the collection. It is planned for release in time for Fondazzjoni Kreattività’s 20th anniversary in 2020.

For more information and so see the 2018/2019 programme at SpazjuKreattiv this season, visit www.kreattivita.org.

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