Engagement across disciplines | Renzo Spiteri

Accomplished percussionist Renzo Spiteri speaks to MaltaToday about the upcoming multi-disciplinary event Now Here | Nowhere, organised under the ‘Engage Creatives’ umbrella and allowing Spiteri to collaborate with a number of eclectic artists

Renzo Spiteri
Renzo Spiteri

Multi-disciplinary events often have interesting ‘origin stories’, not least because they involve the coming together of different creatives from different disciplines to work in unison. Was this element always present while ‘Now Here | Nowhere’ was being devised, and what were the reasons behind picking this particular gathering of artists?

‘Now Here | Nowhere’ knows its genesis as a chance encounter. While flipping through the pages of an inflight magazine, I came across a short poem by Giulia Privitelli. It was a serendipitous encounter and the rest of my time on that flight had me entertaining ideas of how I could make something out of a writing that had resonated with me in such a particular manner.

When that happens, I know that sooner or later I would need to start negotiating with different strands of thought that help shape prospective projects.

The more I read, the more intrigued I became and soon I was thinking of who to involve in this project and how to devise a creative process for it.

Having worked with Erica Muscat in the past, I was very aware of her sensitivity to text. I roped her in primarily for that reason. People know her as an actor but that was the one thing that I didn’t want from her. This is not a music-literary evening and there is no role-playing either.

‘Now Here | Nowhere’ does not follow this idiom but is a projection of a strong commitment towards insights of the selected poetry and delicate weaving of sounds and words.

To compliment these ideas, I asked Italian guitarist Fabrizio Fedele to be part of this journey. I met Fabrizio a couple of years ago and ever since there was this strong common desire to work together. I felt this was the right time and the right project to develop an artistic discourse.

I have enjoyed hearing and seeing what he has brought to the project, with his improvisation skills complementing my ideas and direction in a very sensitive manner.

The main triggers that inform the event appear to be quite topical -- from migration to fake news and environmental collapse/devastation. Why were these themes so crucial, and do you believe that the event can help us process them in a more cogent and satisfying way?

I hope so! In my mind, this project had to serve as a reflective moment and the merging of sounds, words and visuals ought to serve as a platform for processing topical events with which we are surrounded or bombarded every day of our life. Migration, the devastation of our natural environment and life’s coping strategies are just a few of the themes that the poems and our performance deal with.

These social-political realities trigger us to make passive or active choices and ‘Now Here | Nowhere’ seeks to focus on offering a space for thought and considerations.

Italian guitarist Fabrizio Fedele
Italian guitarist Fabrizio Fedele

Once the artists were selected and the themes decided upon, what was the process of actually composing and devising the event like? How did the team adjust to each other’s respective disciplines and processes before the event could come together as a cohesive piece?

In the initial stages, I wanted to spend time with Giulia’s text and formulate my own commentary, thoughts and reactions to it.

I have had very pleasant chats with her over the past weeks and so much has emerged through these sessions. I thought it was also important for Erica and Fabrizio to tune in to the whole concept, thought process and content of the preparatory work before entering the studio to actually work on the creative ideas for the performance.

I was looking forward to seeing what sort of discourse will develop in between these stages and what will emerge once things started taking shape.

And it’s always quite enriching to see how different angles and strands of thought help to achieve a deeper understanding to what is the essence of the text and the sounds we’re working on and with.

In the meantime the idea of “now here” and “nowhere” had me thinking a lot about how I wanted to present the visual element during the performance.

I have been experimenting with interacting with indoor and outdoor spaces through a lens for the past couple of years. Although they are very personal perceptions of space, I am very much looking forward to sharing with the audience these interactions as moving imagery during the performance.

Now that we have well and truly exited the orbit of the Capital of Culture, what do you make of the local cultural scene? What would you change about it?

I think that there are quite a few exciting things happening in the Maltese cultural scene though I still feel that there isn’t enough support and recognition for people who are focusing on making very relevant statements through their art.

A failure in the system was, in my opinion, amplified in the shortcomings of the Valletta 2018 Foundation as an agency that could have propelled more of the exciting, daring and relevant art forms during last year and in terms of long-term strategies too.

I would like to see a change in attitude and mentality that starts from the roots and that lets the arts have a much stronger voice in the socio-political realities of our country, a scene that challenges and asks questions, that can present a dissonance to mainstream culture and that is given more space to be seen and heard.

What’s next for Engage Creatives?

Engage Creatives, as a platform, seeks to engage artists from the most diverse art forms to collaborate together. It also supports artists and cultural organisations in achieving their goals where possible.

And during the coming months we will be engaged in a few selected projects that will see foreign artists go on tour for the first time and showcase their product in theatres and festivals.

We are also in discussion with art centres around Europe to help promote Maltese artists who would like to venture beyond our local shores by offering our advice and support.

This is aside from presenting and touring our very own projects like Now Here | Nowhere in various performance spaces around Europe.

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