(met)afourisms | ‘The work is intended to remain open’

Forming part of the Valletta International Visual Arts Festival (VIVA), the exhibition (met)afourisms challenged four artists to respond to philosophical prompts assigned by Niki Young, after which each of them was guided along in the process by a collaborator. TEODOR RELJIC speaks to the artists about the experience

Digital Collage alluding to Trevor Borg’s contribution to the (met)afourisms project
Digital Collage alluding to Trevor Borg’s contribution to the (met)afourisms project

Klitsa Antoniou (Cyprus)

Collaborator: Irene Biolchini

“By exploring the given aphorism (and intentionally avoiding the use of actual language in my installation), I aimed to reconfigure language as both a fluid material and a conceptual device. In this sense, my final three-dimensional result is obliquely referential and fuelled by an intense questioning about how we make meaning out of this text and further, how we translate visually this meaning. I first focused in tracing any issues integral to the text... proximity, distance and detachment were assertively evoked.

“My reading and its visual elucidation evidently has its roots within my own intense cultural and topos-related experience of being, living and working in such a troubled and challenging region. The visual images and the materiality of the installation is testifying a topos, a transcultural space, attractive in its diversity, but is also confusing in its dynamism, charged with history but also with conflicts, a place where memory defines the people and places surrounding the sea. The sea’s evasiveness becomes a metaphor for the existence of both Cyprus and Malta between the East and the West. It offers insights into the associations between place, artistic practice and expression, and the Mediterranean as an ‘in-between’ place which remains open-ended and dynamic, a construction and that its socio-political and cultural borders are constantly shifting. Working for the Malta project, I was challenged and tested, both intellectually and artistically. I am now looking forward to see the results at the exhibition space in Malta. I am feeling very grateful to be given this opportunity.

“In all three versions, architectural elements of the installations are covered in a meticulous and careful fashion, with seaweed, an element found in abundance along the coast of Cyprus. The seaweed acts as a sign and as a metaphor of growth, both because of its natural growth, and because it defines the geographical border of both islands.”

A still from Klitsa Antoniou’s video ‘Between the Lines’. Visualisation credits: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualisation Studio
A still from Klitsa Antoniou’s video ‘Between the Lines’. Visualisation credits: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualisation Studio

Stuart Franklin (UK)

Collaborator: Sara Dolfi Agostini

“When presented with this challenge I had to think of ongoing or completed work that would be appropriate. The Temples of the Stone project and the Sleeping Angel painting seemed to be a good fit since they deal with the relationship, near and far, between nature and society. My view about the work is that it is ambiguous, and that it should speak for itself. I don’t want to say too much. I’d like people to tell their own stories, form their own opinions, when they see it. I want my part of this exhibition to be about images, not about words.”

Image of Fomm ir-Rih alluding to Vince Briffa’s work of the same name. Photo by the artist
Image of Fomm ir-Rih alluding to Vince Briffa’s work of the same name. Photo by the artist

Vince Briffa (Malta)

Collaborator: Clive Zammit

“The aphorism touched on and even verbalised my current concern in the caricaturisation of confrontation, so it was rather natural for me to delve deeper into what I was already working with. Together with Clive Zammit, we developed a work entitled ‘Fomm ir-Riħ’ which focuses on our very own human nature’s fundamental propensity of thinking in dichotomies.

“The work is pitched at a multitude of conceptual engagement levels; its aesthetic separates the two main components of the spoken word, the sound and the wind and confronts them, revisiting the divine notion of the word as the breath of life. The work also challenges the power of the word and plays on the way we conceive confrontation. But perhaps the work acts at a more playful level, questioning the ultimate destination of language, symbolised by our own speech. “The work plays with the science behind this issue and questions: if our spoken words, as sound waves, are reflected, refracted and ultimately decay, having their energy dissipated as heat, what happens to this heat when they are met with a cooling fan that is activated every time a word or phrase is uttered?”

Trevor Borg (Malta)

Collaborator: Niki Young

“The aphorism presented by Niki Young opened up a plethora of conjectures and possibilities. It is loaded with meanings and deterritorialisations. Each word is beautifully crafted to form a multilayered bricolage of sorts. The real intertwines with the imaginary to (re-)create worlds within worlds while uncharted territories start to emerge, ready to be discovered. The text’s strength lies in its ability and disposition to be disrupted and reconfigured. Folds and creases, cavernous and spongy layers imbricated with philosophical thoughts and ambiguous opportunities for wandering, losing and finding oneself.

“My practice often explores that ambiguous space where nature and culture intersect. The vast spaces emerging from within each bit of text constituting the aphorism presented themselves as a dense forest, where roots and branches loaded with heavy foliage intertwine into an intricate ecology that thrives on doubts and uncertainties. Place, territory, time and matter play an important part in my work and each piece draws on one or more of these themes without ever reaching a closure. The new series of large-scale paintings that I’m presenting locates nature and artifact on the same plane. Collected matter relocated inside restricted compartments complicates the nature-culture dynamic as one is imbricated with the other. Binary distinctions often distort our perspective of what is natural and what is culturally constructed. The work is intended to remain open.”


(met)afourisms will be on display at Spazju Kreattiv at St James Cavalier, Valletta from May 4 to 27. A monograph containing the photographs of the exhibited work (as well as other related images) together with the collaborators’ essays and an exclusive essay by philosopher Graham Harman will also be published. The book launch will be held on May 24 at 19:30 at the Spazju Kreattiv Cinema Room. The project forms part of the Valletta International Visual Arts Festival (VIVA), and is supported by Arts Council Malta – Malta Arts Fund Project Support Grant