Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

VIVA festival



VIVA - the Valletta International Visual Arts Festival, was organised for the first time between the 1st and 7th September 2014.
The aim of VIVA was to create a unique platform for contemporary art in Malta and to initiate a process of change in the local cultural scene. That is not at all easy or self understood as it requires a method by which the visual arts scene in Malta can be internationalised. As Raphael Vella, one of the key organisers explained, it was done by initiating a new type of artistic networks. For the aim was to bring together international and local curators and artists of different generations.

VIVA also aims to create situations where these new networks last beyond the festival itself; for example, it will bring to Malta a number of curators-in-residence who will meet local artists and propose ideas for exhibitions in 2015.

VIVA 2014 featured the work from locally and internationally reknown artists including Mieke Bal, Democracia, Austin Camilleri and JP Azzopardi amongst others. The festival brought to the fore as well local young emerging artists through an exhibition featuring 'Divergent Thinkers'.

A major highlight of VIVA was a first for Malta, namely a Curatorial School. It consisted of an intensive one-week curatorial programme with international speakers from various European institutions. It included:


VIVA is being co-organised by St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, Arts Council Malta, the Valletta 2018 Foundation and Aġenzija Żgħażagħ.


Some high lights

On Thursday, Sept. 5, 2014 there was the film screeing of "State of Suspension - SOS" - by Mieke Bel & Benny Brunner

In memory of the film SOS and a discussion with Mieke Bal

The film is a mixture of documentary and drama, but a real life one. Mieke Bal was asked afterwards if scenes shown in the film were pre-arranged. No, she replied, they developed out of an initial start. For example, she continued to explain, the scene with the youth discussing at the age of 18 a life changing decision whether or not they should enlist in the elite unit of the army or else resist, she had asked one person if he could gather some friends willing to be filmed while they were discussing this crucial question. By the way, she added, the one girl who said it was absurd that they were discussing as if they can decide over life and death once they have become soldiers patrolling in the Palestinian territories, she ended up being sentenced to two consecutive prison sentences and got a psychiatric record.

The film starts with two comedians dressing up as if uniformed men who have the right to set up a control point in a street leading to the beach. They use one thick rope like in the theatre to curtain off the street. Only those who prove themselves to be patriotic to the state of Israel may pass. They pose questions like would you send your children to serve in the Israeli army, and if not, they were deemed to be unpatriotic and could not receive a pass to go to the beach. Some of the people sitting in cars or passing by looked a bit perplexed. It was on the edge of something real and equally unreal. Most of the answers were along a patriotic line but two girls found it difficult to answer the questions. Afterall, they were not married as of yet and found it difficult to imagine themselves handling such a crucial question as a mother of the own children.

What Mieke Bal achieved with this film is to show a completely difference face or reality of Israel. It was amidst daily life and yet stood in stark contrast to what was happening especially in such a town as Hebron where settler women would run over to the Palestinian women behind fenced in houses so as to protect them against stone throwing kids, and shout at them such words as 'whore'. The explanation given by a guide taking the visitors around Hebron is that the Israeli soldiers are really confused, for they are send there to protect around 800 settlers while in fact they should protect the Palestinians against all this abuse of the settlers. Even it has affected the children who would throw stones as if they had been taught from day one to hate the Palestinians.

It is well known that deep humiliations are afflicted in daily matters such as Palestinians having to go through the countless check points. Here the eighteen year old soldier like that youth which was discussing the question and there an eighty year old man who had loved his olive trees and seen a change of the land beyond recognition once the bulldozers came to make way for the settlers' houses or roads leading to them. 

The film showed how a group of volunteers from Israel went to a Palestinian farmer to help him stay on the land. They cleared the land of its many stones and brought from far away water to nourish the trees they planted. At the end of the hard work, they would gather in the shade of a tent and wonder what will become of this land in future.

Mieke Bal comes from Amsterdam, has done literary criticism and came to do documentary films when she encountered her neighbor in Paris: a Tunesian, with a heavy bandage around his fingers. When she asked what happened, he told her that he was working on a building site and due to being overtired because of being over worked, he did not pay intention and cut off one of his fingers. He took the finger and went out to catch a taxi. When one stopped, he told the man he has no money to pay for the taxi but he needs to go to the hospital to have his finger sown on again. The taxi driver did take him free of charge to the hospital and so he had his finger sown on again. That was the start of a story which began her first involvement in a kind of documentary tracing of stories revealed by life and led to her first documentary film called 1001 jours.

For more information about Mieke Bal, see www.miekebal.org

The controversy about a horse with only three legs


No one seemed sure what is meant by this sculpture, but it created a chance to reflect on how the arts can provoke a public debate. Reactions ranged from a monument for animal cruelty since usually they shoot horses, don't they, once one of their legs is broken. Others reminded of animal cruelty, even though there is one man who takes daily his huskie for a walk despite of having only three legs. Since the sculpture is located not only in public space, but at a prominent place, that is right after having entered the former gate of Valletta, now modernised from what it used to be, it might also symbolize secretly what a city can look like once some piece of its cultural heritage is suddenly missing.

Curating at the periphery - round table discussion on Saturday, 6th of September

Another highlight was the roundtable discussion with Raphael Vella as moderator who introduced the curators Pam Meecham, Kit Hammonds, Rosie Cooper and Ine Gevers not only by describing their background and experiences they have made as curator, but also he could cite out of what they had written to elevate the discussion right away to a level of argumentation so rare in these days.

The discussion took place at the St James Cavalier Cinema and finished by everyone joining a small reception in combination with a small installation exhibition.

The main point of the discussion about curating at the periphery was made by Kit Hammonds who described a European project in which he participated in as revealing an odd contrast or even contradiction, for while everyone expected something great could be done in London, he said in reality this is not the case. For the same amount of money was given to each of the partners, but what he managed to do in London was a small event in a modest space, whereas with the same amount of money something truly outstanding could be done in locations of partners at the periphery of Europe. While in London so many activities take place on a daily place so that no one hardly notices one being significant or not, in remote places the meaning alters and has a direct impact upon the artistic community and wider audience which is interested there in the arts.

When Rosie Cooper referred to her experiences she made while Liverpool was European Capital of Culture in 2008, things came across never really heard in either the official reports issued by Liverpool '08 or what would be a part of connecting the ongoing cultural work between various ECoCs. She recalled how different were the BBC programmes always introduced with "now that we are in Liverpool" as if the city was considered to be on the periphery of real happenings, and this despite Tate Modern having a branch in that city. 

Raphael Vella wishes to develop further the school for curators as he believes this is truly missing in Malta.

Hatto Fischer

Athens 24.9.2014

The website of VIVA, Valletta International Visual Arts Festival:




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