Remembering, seeing… believing? | Alexandra Pace

With misinformation being one of the primary agents of repression and control in this day and age, the Valletta-based, artist-led gallery space Blitz has seen it fit to respond in kind. Teodor Reljic speaks to curator Alexandra Pace about how the upcoming collective exhibition Truth || Lies aims to address this particularly disquieting element of our zeitgeist 

Alexandra Pace
Alexandra Pace

Truth || Lies appears to tackle themes that are both hugely metaphysical (the titular concepts hint at this) as well as specific to the current political and media zeitgeist (as alluded to in the exhibition’s overarching desire to tackle phenomena like ‘fake news’). How did the concept for the exhibition actually come together?

Blitz is a space for contemporary art that is a reflection of contemporary existence and its constant state of flux, and as this has always driven our programming, we feel we’d be operating in an insular bubble if we do not respond and react to what is happening in the world. 

It also seemed like a very apt time to cast a net out there in the shape of an open call to see how artists would respond and how far our reach would spread. Through this open call and the resulting exhibition and public programme, Truth || Lies aims to affirm the radical nature of art and acknowledge its ability to provoke, make change, subvert truths, expose lies, exact justice and re-imagine worlds. 

How were the artists chosen? Did you go for artists whom you knew had work that ties into the exhibition, or did you put out a call in advance? Either way, what kind of criteria did you use to make the final selection?

The artists chosen for this exhibition came entirely from an open call. With only two weeks between publishing the call and its deadline, the response exceeded our expectations. The short timeframe given was not without reason, we felt that the accelerated process from publishing the call to the eventual selection of artists and installation of the exhibition, further heightens the sense of urgency, both of our times and the theme of the exhibition. 

We received numerous proposals – most of them international – and from this pool, I started the process of curating a potential narrative from what was in hand. The submissions ranged from the political to the personal and spanned multiple disciplines. The final selection was based on curating a selection of works that together deal with specific political agendas, such as Brexit and migration, as well as questioning the relationship between remembering, seeing, knowing and believing.

Armenoui Kasparian Saraidari – ‘Nameless’
Armenoui Kasparian Saraidari – ‘Nameless’

What kind of experience do you hope to give the visitors with this exhibition? The exhibition catalogue alludes to the fact that truth is sometimes painful to process, and ever more elusive in our political and media landscape. But does Truth || Lies also aim to give visitors something to hold onto in this chaotic miasma of panic and misinformation?

Taking the Orwellian misnomer as a starting point, the Blitz building becomes a ‘Ministry of Truth’ for the duration of a month. Our audience’s experience will shift and change as they follow through the exhibition. From the ‘handshake’ at the door to the inner depths of the building where the audience is confronted by a life-size projection of a leading warlord in the Niger Delta, the experience weaves between the personal and universal along the way. Alongside the month-long exhibition, there is also a public programme of film screenings and a children’s event.

Giving hope is a tough challenge when we lose more and more of it on a daily basis. Although I am optimistic that experiencing this exhibition will encourage the audience to confront their own personal and political truths. The artists were selected for this exhibition based on their potential to arouse our inner most realities through experiencing their work. 

Ina Lounguine – ‘Staring quietly at the backwash’
Ina Lounguine – ‘Staring quietly at the backwash’

Given that Blitz is committed to addressing contemporaneity through its initiatives, how has the public reacted to what you are doing so far – in particular, how do you think your events contrast with everything else that’s happening in Malta at the moment?

Our main objective has always been to push boundaries and to support and show experimental and radical arts practice in all its form. I feel that in the past four years of Blitz’s existence, our programme has grown to be more and more aware of present realities and it is our aim to be at the forefront of placing art where it belongs in these highly politicised times. The response to our programme has been both fantastic and humbling. Our local audience attendance and engagement has been constantly growing and the majorly international response to our open calls is testament to our audience reaching far beyond the boundaries of our island. 

Undeniably, there is a lot happening in Malta right now, especially in the run up to the much-anticipated European Capital of Culture. By virtue of our independence, I believe that we are in a privileged position that allows us to be quick to respond to urgencies of the present. 

Blitz operates on the uniqueness of the artist-run space, its actions, programme and events which happen in collaboration with like-minded people, locally and internationally, and the situated community. There is plenty of discussion, planning and strategy but all done in real time and real space, not in endless meetings. Four years down the line, Blitz is firmly a located in the local cultural ecosystem and its importance in the local cultural sector is undeniable.

Manali Jagtap Nyheim – He Can Read, He Can Write And He Can Shoot
Manali Jagtap Nyheim – He Can Read, He Can Write And He Can Shoot

Truth || Lies will feature work by the following artists: Armenoui Kasparian Saraidari, Sara Rees, Giuseppe Torre, Erica Giusta, Guillaume Dreyfuss, Jacques Borg Barthet, Manali Jagtap Nyheim, Tom Bull, Philip Cartelli, Mariangela Ciccarello, Arnold Aganze, Ina Lounguine, Will Henry Carter and Neale Willis. 

The exhibition will open on April 20 at 19:00, and remain on display at the venue until May 17. 

Opening times at Blitz are: 10:00-15:00 (Tuesday to Thursday); 15:00 to 19:00 (Friday and Saturday). Blitz is supported by Arts Council Malta through a Cultural Partnership Agreement

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