In 2017 | How to improve Maltese arts and culture, this year and beyond

Culled from a year’s worth of interviews with Teodor Reljic, local artists and creative practitioners let us in on their hopes for the Maltese cultural scene in the coming year... and perhaps further ahead

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
4 January 2017, 8:19am
Dorian Mallia

Dancer, choreographer. Director: Moveo Dance Company

We need more small-scale, grassroots initiatives
We need more small-scale, grassroots initiatives
Art should always be led by artists and supported by a strong infrastructure. Local audience limitations should be considered and made up for. I believe that more importance should be given toward promoting Maltese artists and performances on an international level. International exposure of what is Maltese should go beyond Malta Song, the Maltese summer, sea, baroque and history, and serious promotion should be given to the wider spectrum of the arts.

Immanuel Mifsud

Author

People enjoy the live experience of poetry readings
People enjoy the live experience of poetry readings
I’ve learnt that reading a poem aloud and to someone changes the whole dynamic of the lines. Sometimes I revise the poems after public readings. Would I recommend poetry readings? Definitely. There are other poets who are giving readings nowadays, and some of these readings are even spectacular. I’m thinking of Adrian Grima’s reading in collaboration with Plato’s Dream Machine last year for example. That was a really good reading. I do wish readings like that become more of a frequent and regular event. They are beautiful because the poetry is beautiful. And people do enjoy the live experience of reading sessions.

Ruben Zahra

Musician

The cultural infrastructure in Malta is very poor
The cultural infrastructure in Malta is very poor
Partly thanks to Arts Council Malta’s funding schemes, today it is possible to work as a freelance musician in Malta… but you have to work your butt off. The work has to be excellent and you need to develop entrepreneurship skills. It’s a learning curve and each artist needs to navigate his or her own journey. Personally, I would not have it any other way. What I would change is infrastructure… the cultural infrastructure of Malta is very poor. We lack concert halls, performance space, cultural clusters. We even lack the basis musical instruments available for rent to present a classical music concert with the basic percussion instruments. That needs to change.

Stalko (Tim Ellis, Michael Stivala, Chris Cini)

Folk-pop band

There needs to be more input and support for musicians from local authorities
There needs to be more input and support for musicians from local authorities
There is a lot going on at the moment. New material is being released regularly and, although it may not all be to our liking, it is surely encouraging to know that more people are contributing to the local music scene. As for things to change, top on our list would be more input and support from local authorities. We still lack adequate, propped-up venues for gigs, and while we’re at it, any news from William Mangion?!

Bettina Hutschek

Artist, filmmaker

Artists should run their own spaces and not rely too much on institutions
Artists should run their own spaces and not rely too much on institutions
Apart from BLITZ, I do not know of any project spaces or lasting artist-run initiatives, and Malta could definitely take more of those! Artists need institutions and funding as much as spaces for experimentation and the possibility of failing. Instead of complaining about what’s lacking, we can actually just get up and DO things. I consider project spaces and the project-space energy as essential to any contemporary art scene. 

Artists should also dare to produce work that is relevant to today’s issues, while being maybe un-sellable or un-marketable (e.g. not every concept drawing needs a frame…) While there is so much going on with the revamping of the Arts Council and Valletta 2018 around the corner, I think it is very important to work with the institutional frameworks but not to rely on them or drown in organisational issues, but to always remind yourself of the quality and the message of your work.

Ryan Falzon

Painter

Certain national platforms need to be more selective with the art they show
Certain national platforms need to be more selective with the art they show
I would love the art scene to be sharp. Sharp and relevant. I would like the art scene to be just like my music; loud, fast and aggressive. I would love to see certain platforms, especially national ones, being more selective about works being shown in such spaces. I am all for art that is socially and politically committed, and feel that there is not enough of this type of engagement from local artists.

Tomoko Goto

Photographer

People in Malta don’t open their wallets to support art
People in Malta don’t open their wallets to support art
There seems to be more art events happening in Malta these days, but I feel like there’s a disconnect between the creators of this art and the general public. Both artists and viewers need to interact and engage actively with each other if the Maltese art scene is to grow.

People here readily “like” what you do, but they don’t open their wallets to support it. Malta is lacking a sense of patronage for the arts, and so art here cannot become a full time way of life. This situation can change, but only if schools and cultural stakeholders create more programming that seeks to expose people to art and helps them engage with it. Businesses and private companies should also spend more on art, so that it becomes a part of our everyday lives.

Martyrium (Vanja Obscure, Pandemonia, Count Mortem, Sherath, Sandmist, Úmarth)

Black metal band

There is a gross lack of performance spaces for musicians
There is a gross lack of performance spaces for musicians
A few problems which we can currently identify is the gross lack of available venues for performances, chilling out as well as proper rehearsal space where bands can comfortably meet on a daily basis (and by ‘comfortably’, we mean having easy access to a restroom). Another problem may be the lack of communication between organisers who sometimes end up organising events in the same genre that end up clashing with each other – making an already dense scene feel even more cluttered.

Gorg Mallia 

Author, cartoonist, lecturer

Maltese publishing needs more of a support structure (Photo: Felix Attard)
Maltese publishing needs more of a support structure (Photo: Felix Attard)
Although we’re losing publishers thick and fast because of market limitations, and, I have to admit, sadly, that in spite of all efforts made over the last decades, reading remains something of a rare commodity in Malta, we do have publishers that courageously strive on, even publishing books that they know will be sleepers, or very bad sellers. Logically, the one area that is quite good for books is that of children’s literature, though even there, there is no room for complacency or a drop in quality.

I think Maltese publishing needs more of an official support structure that can help it tide over rough patches (i.e. all the time!) In much the same way that some areas of arts and crafts are “protected” so they don’t flounder, some sort of grants system that goes well beyond what we have in place needs to be implemented, intelligently targeting those areas that lose money on the market. Authors in those areas mainly self-publish, and while I’m not against this in principle, it loses that much needed gate-keeping that often helps assure a high quality. 

A number of our publishers adhere to a strict, very useful work ethic and are highly professional. A few don’t and aren’t. I think understanding the nature of the skill set needed and the number of professionals necessary to make for successful, high quality publishing is indispensable, and even more so when it market is miniscule. Good publishers publish good books. Bad publishers publish mediocre books that flood the market and harm the industry for those who really deserve to be there.

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...