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Looking behind closed doors

A multidisciplinary and multisensorial experience

Photos: Matthew Mirabelli

Photos: Matthew Mirabelli

Author Loranne Vella is on a high. Last week, her novel Rokit, published by Merlin Publishers, won the overall Best Book award at the National Book Prize 2018 and, tonight, her new project Verbi: Mill bieb ’il ġewwa is opening at Valletta Contemporary.

The mixed medium piece, produced by the Brussels-based Barumbara Collective, blurs the dividing lines between a photographic exhibition, installation, dance, theatre, video projection, drama and music concert, thus creating a multidisciplinary and multisensorial experience at this venue, which allows for such fluidity.

Verbi: Mill bieb ’il ġewwa strives to be a structurally curious event which poses strong existential questions through its narrative.Verbi: Mill bieb ’il ġewwa strives to be a structurally curious event which poses strong existential questions through its narrative.

The work is based on a collection of short stories, mill-bieb ’il ġewwa (take a look inside (me)), written by Ms Vella herself.

“I clearly remember the moment I realised that these short stories could be used as the narrative basis for Verbi,” says the author. “I was mesmerised watching Francesca Saraullo’s La Sospesa where she is suspended by her hair – thick strands of hair attached to combs and brushes hanging from the ceiling – and the opening scene of one of the stories came to my mind.”

So, in Moxt (Comb) one will see an old woman brushing her hair in front of the mirror while vividly evoking memories from her past.

“For a long time, the idea was to bring La Sospesa and Moxt together. Ultimately, however, another text from mill-bieb ’il ġewwa became the narrative of Francesca’s sequence.”

Other than Ms Vella, who is also performer, artistic director and coordinator for Verbi, and Sephora Gauci who is a performer, the other six artists within the collective are video artist, photographer and musician Kamini Daems, sound designer Danjeli Schembri, performer Francesca Saraullo, video artist, photographer and performer Aurore Morillon, photographer Zvezdan Reljić and light designer Eleanor Bryce.

Before the first residency, Ms Vella sent the artists some of the stories and asked them to find something from their repertoire which somehow linked to a character or a moment from one of the stories.

Ms Daems particularly liked the story Il-Lejl (The Night) and brought one of her songs with her – Nightmares. During the photography workshop, a scene was created based on one line from this song, which reads ‘there is a graveyard under my bed’.

Who am I really, on the inside?

Ms Bryce became intrigued by the digital voice of the woman who answers the phone in the story Voice Mail and she eventually created an android’s gloves with points of light. Mr Reljić decided to work on the idea of the vanishing moment (from the story Houdini) and applied this to photography. For Mr Schembri, it was Kikkra Kafè (Cup of Coffee), Ms Gauci was captivated by Saff Saff (Layer by Layer) and Ms Morillon chose an idea Ms Vella has for a story she still has not written (Cut Me, I Love You).”

Through all of this, Verbi became a promenade performance within a gallery space.

“As we open our doors tonight, I guess I would say Verbi is for the curious,” Vella continues. “Both contextually and structurally. The narrative asks the existential question ‘Who are you? And who am I really, on the inside?’ It invites the audience to step inside and see for themselves. The structure of the event poses the same question. What is this? Is it theatre? Installation? Exhibition? Is it a dance, a song, a Skype chat? By seeking to define the experience, the spectators consequently redefine themselves and their role within the artistic expression itself.”

Verbi: mill-bieb ‘il ġewwa opens tonight and will also be performed tomorrow and Sunday at Valletta Contemporary, East Street, Valletta. It is produced by Culture Venture and is supported by Malta Arts Fund – Project Support Grant by Arts Council Malta. Entrance tickets will be available at the door or from https://shop.trackagescheme.com/event/mill-bieb-il-gewwa .

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