Embracing a new reality | Giulia Micallef, Chalise Bugeja

Giulia Micallef and Chalise Bugeja ARE coordinators for Ctrl Z: the very first edition of a collective visual arts exhibition featuring dissertation work by students of the Digital Arts Department at the University of MaltA

Could you briefly tell us what Ctrl Z is all about?

Ctrl Z is an online exhibition organised by the final-year students within the Digital Arts course at the University of Malta, where it will be showcasing 35 works that are the practical part of our dissertations. Ctrl Z is an opportunity for each artist to show their skills through their respective projects, after a year’s worth of trials and errors, research and dedication.

How would you say the assembled artists, and the exhibition itself, reflect the ethos and content of the Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts? What are some of the prevailing intellectual and aesthetic trends that shine through, and how did the students respond to them?

The course of studies is a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) degree with Digital Arts as the main area of specialisation. This is truly shown within the exhibition considering every project displays a wide spectrum of thematic approaches through areas as diverse as duality in relationships, gender identity, dance, sound/image synthesis, portraiture, artificial intelligence, software design and homelessness.

The overarching theme throughout this exhibition is that of questioning and delving into that which is deeply and innately human. Throughout this final semester of our scholastic year however, every student had to embrace a new reality; that of shifting our lectures as well as our own exhibition online. This also meant that our areas of specialisation needed to be adjusted and moved online.

Chalise Bugeja
Chalise Bugeja

Having to organise this exhibition in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and all of its attendant restrictions must have presented its fair share of challenges: how did you go about it?

Ctrl Z is the first exhibition of its nature for the Digital Arts Department and the University of Malta. Initially it did present quite a few hurdles given that the exhibition had to change its dynamics completely. In this regard, it was a challenge trying to organise an exhibition entirely through video calls. Luckily we had already assigned roles to every student earlier on in March, so it was a lot easier to coordinate when the pandemic hit.

The COVID-19 scenario also meant that we couldn’t showcase our works as we had originally envisaged; everything had to move online and many struggled with the fact that their works had to be compromised. We had to quickly learn to adjust to the extraordinary circumstances and to stay optimistic, and now we cannot be prouder of what we have managed to accomplish.

Giulia Micallef
Giulia Micallef

What do you make of the Maltese visual arts scene? What would you change about it?

Personally we both agree that the Maltese visual arts scene is flourishing, and rightfully so. For many years now, artists have been underestimated, and a little exposure tends to go a long way. The Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) Digital Arts degree is setting a new benchmark for artists in the digital age by opening up lots of opportunities combining studio-practice with emerging technologies.

How do you think COVID-19 will impact the local arts scene, and what silver linings do you see in this situation, if any?

We believe it already has impacted the local arts scene, as many creative individuals are using a lot of their time now, to create more – far more than they ever could. This also brought with it the opportunity for some artists to kickstart their freelancing, and create works of art that usher in positivity during this unfortunate time. In terms of silver linings, we do believe that experiencing something as extraordinary as a pandemic will only make any individual stronger, and lead society to appreciate the arts all the more.

What’s next for you?

This tends to be a grey area considering finding a job might prove harder because of COVID-19, but as we have learnt throughout the last three years at University; it’s important to adapt to situations thrown at you. Even though the future is seemingly a big question mark for most of us, the fact that our exhibition opened its virtual doors at the end of last month despite everything makes us all the more proud of our accomplishments, and eager to showcase our work.

To view the CTRL Z online exhibition, log on to: https://ctrlz.website