A door to perception | Andrew Borg Wirth

Forming part of a wider project whose wistful undercurrents its subtitle certainly bears out, ‘Antiporta: A Fading Negotiation’ is an architectural-artistic installation currently taking place at Spazju Kreattiv at St James Cavalier, Valletta, which explores the rapidly disappearing and entirely Maltese feature of the antiporta. MaltaToday speaks to curator Andrew Borg Wirth


The Antiporta installation will remain on display at Spazju Kreattiv at St James Cavalier, Valletta until February 3
The Antiporta installation will remain on display at Spazju Kreattiv at St James Cavalier, Valletta until February 3

How did the concept for Antiporta first come about, and what were the initial stages of its realisation like?

As Chris [Briffa] approached me, he insisted he wanted this to be more than just a representation of work the studio had already done but rather to use the exhibition as a platform for potential in the future. He engaged me precisely because of this reason -- to seek a topic and to direct an investigation. The initial stages of the project were based in discussion with personal anecdotes from each of the members of the team about the topic and how overlooked it is. My interest with studying the fading of the antiporta was invested in what social implications this had. The Venice Architecture Biennale, where the project was first presented, is a hub for conversation pieces and research projects and I really wanted to understand how architecture was illustrating contemporary realities in Maltese society.

As stated by yourselves, the very concept of an ‘antiporta’ has become associated with notions of a ‘typical’ idea of Malteseness, or at least Maltese architecture. With this in mind, what did you want to express about our built heritage with the piece?

The narrative is invested in how this was an important intermediary between public and private space. It serves as an illustration of an ongoing conversation: is this still the case today? Is our architecture providing several layers of encounter? Are our thresholds still permeable enough to allow for the negotiations they once did?

Would you say that an installation like yours is redolent of a sense of preservation of typical architectural features, as the trend towards more accelerated and -- by definition -- compressed expressions of our built environment continue to take hold as a result of Malta’s construction boom?

It is an investigation, rather than a reflection, of the social construct that this was and in some places, survives as. Rather than preservation, the projects calls for contextualisation and deliberation of values. There is skill behind each of the materials and processes that the antiporta portrayed which we investigated.

The skilled workers that we met expressed a great desire of theirs for more appreciation of so distinct a characteristic within a Maltese home. Not because it looked ‘sweet’ or because it is ‘typical’ but rather because it functioned so very well. There was a symbol to it, there was a vernacular to it, there were climatic issues it served and there were social negotiations it exhibited.

The point of the project is to highlight the loss of all these elements in unison, rather than any one element over the other. The antiporta held characteristics to it that, when combined, were unique. These were important for interactions of daily life within regular architecture in Malta. The state of things today, and what our buildings are saying about us now, is where our investigation lies.

Andrew Borg Wirth, Photo by Lisa Gwen
Andrew Borg Wirth, Photo by Lisa Gwen

How do you think architectural discourse and practices could continue to contribute to Malta’s visual arts scene? Are there any important, timely and/or relevant synergies that you think could be exploited here?

The collaborative nature of this project is what made this one invested in the contexts each member finds themselves in. Curators, artists, architects, photographers and art managers in synergy towards a conversation they simultaneously believe needs to be had. This meant there were contexts we each brought to make this a personal project and one that was invested in the ultimate niche the project was conceived within: architecture.

There is definitely scope for more of this discourse to continue to generate discussion, for our industry to innovate. The time we are in currently is fueled by collaboration, and this is a world I feel very comfortable working in. I believe more of this kind of energy within the local scene would augur well for the worlds of both architecture and the visual arts.

What’s next for you?

Antiporta was one of the first projects of this nature which I worked on. I started it half way through my sixth year at university and it was very much in line with the kind of work I had wanted to do and was engaged in within my studies. So I’d really like to be a part of more projects of a similar nature.

Antiporta will remain on display at Spazju Kreattiv at St James Cavalier, Valletta until 3 February. For more information on the ongoing and participatory project, log on to: https://www.antiporta.com/