This interview with founder and director of Artist Run Organisation (ARO) Blitz, Alexandra Pace, was an opportunity to both discuss how transformation was affecting the ARO in Malta, but also some of the reasons for setting up the Transformer project in response in the first place.
Beginning with Blitz, which was set up as a residency-led project space in 2013 — in part because there was no other space for showing contemporary art in Valletta, in which the processes and diversity of its subject matter could be brought to the fore — we discussed what this model allowed as well as its limits.
While the non-profit model Blitz runs on allows its curatorial agenda to be guided for the most part by supporting and providing a frame for the research of its residency artists, the difficulty of making this process visible beyond a concluding exhibition remained.
Moving on from setting up a space for contemporary art in Malta, we also went on to discuss how the specific practices and diverse values of the contemporary art process could be made more legible.
As we discussed, the Transformer project can be thought of as both a way of further broadening the character of this research, an as an experimental platform for how to create and sustain that conversation in the first place. Of course the durability of the network is connected to how its various audiences and participants understand its value and use, and how this value can be replenished and reproduced. Here then we also touched on the various local and international scales that such a platform like this could accommodate.
The question of what formats this would take and how these might be able to interface with others like the education system, the new and existing infrastructure projects like Müza and Valletta Design Cluster, as well as MICAS (Malta International Contemporary Art Space) was at the core of this network, and remains an open question.
As with other interviews, I’d included a link to a piece of writing or practice that addresses similar or otherwise illuminating questions. In this case, it was an introduction on the Art News website to a book by Maura Reilly, Curatorial Activism, which mobilizes a move in the art world towards rethinking representation and participation in its organisation as a curatorial agenda. You can see it here, and read the introductory essay here.
With the broader framing of Valletta 2018, and its period of investment in the local creative ecology in mind, I was curious to hear more about how these moments of investment, and projects like Transformer could be marshalled into changing as well as shoring up local cultural infrastructures.
In the end, we turned to the question of legacy and longevity — something which is perhaps as difficult to measure as it is to predict and maintain. Here, we talked about the importance of being able to read and register the traces of a network as much as record what it is — a tricky prospect in any network, since it will always exceed the sum of its parts.
Again this question was connected to how to make the activities of contemporary art legible to an audience, but these traces, as active parts of an active network, might also offer a way to think about what effects a network like Transformer can have.
* At the end of the recording, it is stated that the exhibition runs from the 9th — this in incorrect. This should be the 8th of September. The opening event is on the 7th.