Making the Maltese cross | Trevor Borg

Trevor Borg speaks to us about Crossfire, a topical installation at St James Cavalier, Valletta depicting the Maltese cross by means of shotgun pellets. 

Trevor Borg:
Trevor Borg: "The work is open-ended and my expectations are equally fluid"

What did you find creatively interesting about the spring hunting referendum?

Interesting question! Well, I have a particular fascination with the landscape and this referendum implicates both the natural and cultural landscape. I guess that was one of the initial reasons that initiated the creative process.

What kind of ‘conflicts’ did you see inherent to it, beyond the ‘for and against’ binary?

It is often stated that art mirrors society and, thus, I think that automatically such a controversial issue should be tantalizing enough to elicit some sort of creative response. Given my artistic background and a direct personal interest in the complex relationship between nature and culture I decided to take the plunge.

I am not saying that the referendum kick-started this since I had already been working with found objects in the landscape for quite a while. However, the referendum helped me to contextualise my work and to set the ball rolling, fast! I had to respond to this important event and the time is now.

What kind of planning – both literal and conceptual – went into this particular work?

There is a lot of work involved behind the scenes although the installation might not entirely reflect that. However, those who want to dig deeper so as to unearth further ‘text’ would certainly realise that the work is multilayered and that it comprises a lot of thought and critical reflection.

I am a collector! I have always collected stuff. Prior to the referendum, I had already been collecting spent shotgun cartridges and other mundane stuff I find scattered across the landscape, however, I did not envisage the outcome at that stage. Spent cartridges are synonymous with certain parts of Malta so I had to develop something out of this material.

The referendum came just about the time I was creatively experimenting with the multi-coloured plastic and copper thingies! So, that was it. The installation comprises thousands of spent shotgun cartridges collected over a period of time. After I investigated various formats and arrangements I decided to settle for the Maltese Cross.

The reasons are quite simple. Hunting is part of our culture, there is no denying that. The Knights of Malta were avid hunters themselves and that is why we have Buskett. Therefore, the Maltese Cross, an icon of local culture, seemed to fit the cause perfectly. Looking at this from the other side of the fence, hunting also makes some ‘Maltese cross’! Those who resist hunting feel that they have to bear the cross of this so-called pastime.


What kind of reaction are you expecting from the work?

The work is open-ended and my expectations are equally fluid. My intention is to create a political work of which the interpretation is not obvious. Locally, we are constantly being inundated with blatant political messages which do not leave much space for interpretation. I do not want to impose my opinions on the viewers through my work because we already have plenty of that stuff around. I wanted to respond to this historic milestone by creating a work that offers multiple readings, that allows each and every viewer no matter their allegiance, to be able to interact with it and make it their own.

Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion and to an interpretation of the work and all views are relevant and important. Thus, the work inhabits an interstice created by two opposing camps and it keeps its balance and stability through the tension that dominates both sides. The work is far from neutral because my opinion is imbricated; it is there, however, it is not privileged but is equal to the opinion of the rest. Viewers should not try to decode the hidden meanings but they have to look for ‘text’ that helps them to construct their own meaning. The work is intended to facilitate and complicate that process!

Do you think it’ll be appreciated more by a particular ‘camp’ than another?

No, I don’t think so. I have seen various people of different opinions taking photos and selfies in front of the installation and it has also been posted numerous times on Facebook by pro and against hunting individuals. The idea can be appropriated by anyone really.

What are the benefits of artistic exhibitions that directly respond to current events?

Art can be political and art is not as innocent as it might seem or as certain people would like it to be or would want us to believe. Such artworks attest to this.

Do you think we need more of them in Malta?

Why not!

How does this piece build on your previous work?

It is related to the landscape, so it’s another step along familiar territory.

What’s next for you?

A nice cup of coffee and a few bars of dark chocolate should suffice for now. I want to enjoy the artwork from a distance in order to be able to (re-)interpret what I have created. Now, I am a viewer.

Crossfire will remain on display at St James Cavalier, Valletta until April 9