Navigating through the seas of time

Justine Navarro and Roderick Camilleri are the latest emerging artists participating in Divergent Thinkers to speak to Teodor Reljic about the competition, art and the art scene in Malta

Roderick Camilleri takes a more philosophical approach to this year’s theme for the Divergent Thinkers exhibition, ‘Navigate’
Roderick Camilleri takes a more philosophical approach to this year’s theme for the Divergent Thinkers exhibition, ‘Navigate’

Having opened on October 21, the annual Divergent Thinkers exhibition brings together a group of emerging artists to create work to a brief, with this edition taking ‘NAVIGATE’ as its curatorial springboard. As part of an ongoing series of interviews with the participating artists, Teodor Reljic speaks to Justine Navarro and Roderick Camilleri, who will be competing with his counterparts at the exhibition for a month-long scholarship at the Youkobo Art Space in Tokyo, Japan in August, 2017

What would you say is significant about the Divergent Thinkers tradition, and how does it feel to be a part of it? Also, what do you think it contributes to the stature of your own work as a whole?

Justine Navarro: I’m thrilled to form part of Divergent Thinkers, as it gives me the opportunity to spread out and enjoy the journey behind each piece, not just the final destination. I was drawn to the theme immediately, and spent many hours at sea as part of the process. In fact, I have been hoping to show a series of yacht-related artworks for a while now, and to be given the opportunity to exhibit these works as part of a collective initiative, and at the Maritime Museum itself, is a real honour. 

Roderick Camilleri: The idea behind Divergent Thinkers is to promote young artists and sponsor creative ideas which go beyond conventional confines related to the visual arts. I am grateful that my work was chosen and featured since it frames some of my ideas into an organised and professional exhibition.

How did you interpret NAVIGATE – this year’s Divergent Thinkers theme – and what do you hope to communicate with your contribution to the exhibition?

Navarro: In a fairly obvious way, actually. I have used imagery captured onboard boats usually moving forward, juxtaposed with a geo-location code or a phrase as an innuendo. We are constantly going through images like open gates. The focus of my MFA in Digital Art was the motivisual – how we use images of places and objects to make us move – and we navigate through these prints in the exhibition.

‘Parking Lot’ by Justine Navarro
‘Parking Lot’ by Justine Navarro

Camilleri: On the other hand, my own interpretation of ‘navigate’ is not literal. It does not present the theme in terms of versions of navigations but rather it discloses the philosophical nature of the phenomenon of travel by probing into the concept of time. Time is existentially linked to the idea of navigation. The idea of a chronoscope or a time receptacle is being presented as a kind of symbol for a time portal which stands as a representation of two essential notions, namely, man’s inherent telos of exploration and his internal yearning for immortality. I am presenting an installation that discloses the necessity of flux and its binary, namely permanence. My idea is to tease out some reflections on our being, other than focusing on the usual topics of travel. 

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

Navarro: Everything is changing dramatically. Almost overnight, I have seen more gutsy art projects and due to degrees and funding in the fine arts, there are more thoroughly thought out works of art around. I would like to see more collaboration and discussion between artists to set things up. I would like to see more exposure of exhibitions like in Berlin where openings and private views are publicised and guests go to the shows for more than the free food and drink.

Camilleri: I think we are going through an exciting period in the contemporary visual arts scene, since we are at the crossroads for new opportunities of expressions and research. 

Should you win the residency in Tokyo, how do you hope to make the most out of the experience?

Navarro: Immerse myself into the culture, take an abundance of photos and create an interactive video installation encompassing images and sounds, let the new environment be an influence, try some new techniques. Also, I hope to explore the possibilities of interactive software applications to show the work interactively, and to gain inspiration, make contacts, show images of Malta – and maybe find some similarities between the two countries – while engaging in discussions with festival curators to explore and share. 

Camilleri: Through my artistic practice and research I would like to interact with another cultural environment which goes beyond the European paradigm, exchanging and absorbing new media and ways of communicating ideas that transmute art into other contemporary creative expressions. 

Divergent Thinkers is on show at the Malta Maritime Museum, Birgu until November 18. The exhibition is curated by Raphael Vella and organised by Aġenzija Żgħażagħ in collaboration with Valletta 2018, with the support of the Malta Maritime Museum, EU Japan 

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