Weaponising sexist stereotypes against themselves | Roxman Gatt

Malta-born, UK-based artist Roxman Gatt speaks to TEODOR RELJIC about her upcoming musical performance show My Womxn is a God My God is a Womxn, whose title implies the multifarious ways in which the female figure can be celebrated in a world that has historically and persistently been hostile to it

Roxman Gatt will be performing My Womxn is a God my God is a Womxn at MUZA, Valletta
Roxman Gatt will be performing My Womxn is a God my God is a Womxn at MUZA, Valletta

How would you describe your evolution as an artist, and what would you say were some of the most consistent thematic or conceptual concerns and preoccupations of yours, that you’ve held on to since you first began making art until now?

I left home around 11 years ago to study in London, where I am based, and unlike the UK did with the EU, I ‘remained’. It is a blurred journey of many life experiences that have shaped me as the artist I am today, with all the good, bad, and in-between implied within.

I feel very lucky to be surrounded by beautiful talented creatures who have refused to follow and live within the constraints of societal norms, who have created their own (queer as fuck) alternative worlds where love thrives and differences are celebrated and welcomed.

Being born in a very conservative and Catholic country has impacted me and my work a lot. Religion used to be a major theme in the work, and as a matter of fact still is... it’s unavoidable, really. However, I don’t ever come to it separately, it comes as part of a bigger research area. I am intrigued and fascinated by many things around me, however I do have subject areas that I am constantly referencing and will always feature heavily in my work, some of which are: gender, identity, sexuality, love, loneliness, car crashes, consumption, production, the fetishisation of inanimate objects and macho culture.

‘Warrior Heart Geart’ by Roxman Gatt (2019)
‘Warrior Heart Geart’ by Roxman Gatt (2019)

Could you tell us a little bit about My Womxn is a God My God is a Womxn, your contribution to the Art+Feminism series of events at Spazju Kreattiv?

Boiling it down, I would say it’s mainly a ‘fuck you’ to the patriarchy, while also aiming to be a celebration of womxn in all their variety. I was reading a lot about witches and mothers around the same time I was first conceiving of the project, and also wrote this song with the title ‘Hag’. I eventually started looking into derogatory terms used for womxn. My intention was to reclaim these words and celebrate their meanings through movement, sound, video painting and sculptural works.

How does it feel to be forming part of Art+Feminism? Would you say a particular emphasis on feminism is necessary for the Maltese cultural context?

I am psyched, and very grateful to [curator Margerita Pule] for inviting me over and welcoming this performance. I find Malta exciting, and maybe even more important sometimes to exhibit my work, specifically work such as ‘My Womxn is a God my God is a Womxn’. The country is still suffering greatly from certain inbuilt tropes concerning gender and sexuality. In my eyes, feminism is non-existent over there. I see mothers, wives, daughters who are exceptional human beings, but they are so heavily influenced by this patriarchal system that they aren’t even aware of this, they continue to accept suffering and being mistreated as if this is most natural thing in the world. I could write so much about this, but it is coming from an angry place which I don’t wish to put forward here.

So what I’d like to add is this: I would hope to see as many womxn come along to this show and hopefully feel some empowerment or energy… and if not, just do some dancing have a drink and talk more about the real important things.

“Feminism is non-existent in Malta”
“Feminism is non-existent in Malta”

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

I think there is good stuff happening, such as Malta Sound Women Network, Bewyld festival, Kinemastik after parties and other people who have kept me on the dance floor till the early morning hours with their sexy tunes. Though I wish that there are more people doing crazy shit, my idea of the music scene is either very mainstream or still very ‘indie’…  it lacks in variety and it is very safe and straight, personally I haven’t really been excited by much. I also think that we should make an effort to integrate the ‘mainstream’ scene with the ‘alternative’ scene, maybe some interesting things could emerge from that.

What’s next for you?

As I always say, food and sex… Seriously though, I should be having a show at the end of March, and I’m also part of this year’s peer forum at Camden Arts Centre. I will be working alongside 15 other artists, and our group will be exploring the importance of collective affection and how artists can organise, communicate, present themselves and work towards social change by sharing a more personal and intimate voice through their work.

Roxman Gatt will be performing My Womxn is a God My God is a Womxn on February 28 and 29 at 8pm at MUŻA, Valletta. The show forms part of the Strangers in a Strange Land exhibition and performance series, which is in turn a part of Spazju Kreattiv’s Art+Feminism 2020 Project, in collaboration with Wikimedia Community Malta. For more information and to book tickets, log on to: www.unfinishedartspace.org/strangeland