Letters: 22 February 2015

Why beauty matters

Antonio Belvedere’s crie de coeur on the transferring of the monti open air market to Ordnance Street, a stone’s throw away from the new Parliament which Renzo Piano designed, may go unheeded. For this reason I will argue here why beauty matters and what happens to us when we choose to live without it.

Belvedere compared this choice of venue for the market so unsuitably close to the recently built Parliament building, to “baking a cake and spitting on it”. Here, two actions are brought together to show how incongruous such a decision would be. Why is this happening here? And why are we unable to realize the consequences of such a move? I argue that the lack of beauty in our lives is the cause.

Beauty as a value was always important to Western culture and civilization. Debates on what constitutes beauty date back to Plato and Classical Greece and the discourse continued with Ficino in Renaissance Florence all the way to the nineteenth century. Today, beauty in the art world is no longer important and art and architecture have made a culture of ugliness.

Malta is no exception to the rule. What has been central to Western art has disappeared and now we are witnessing the result of this in our daily lives. Our environment, our place of work and the way we treat each other are all affected by the absence of beauty in our lives. We have turned our backs on this spiritual need and what is replacing it is ugliness and alienation. Is it therefore so surprising that we turn our backs on the work of a great architect who has designed our Parliament building?

I believe human beings from all walks of life need beauty in their lives. Without it our lives become barren and uninspiring. If we look at the work of very great artists and architects like Bernini, who was an architect and sculptor, Rembrandt, Titian and contemporary architects like Renzo Piano and Zaha Hadid they understand that human life is full of chaos and suffering but they have a remedy for that which is beauty.

The evidence is the result of their art and architecture and the millions who travel to pay homage and find spiritual sustenance in great works of art. These very great artists remind us through their work that beauty matters and great art and architecture console us in sorrow and affirm our joy. It is therefore necessary to sit up and take heed of Antonio Belvedere because his is the voice we should all be listening to when it comes to what is best for the parliament as a building and in the long run what is best for us.

Why has beauty ceased to be important for artists? Is it that the randomness of modern life can never be redeemed by beauty? The pattern with this impatience for beauty in art started with Marcel Duchamp who exhibited a urinal and called it “Fountain” (1917). His gesture was satirical, however much about satire tends to get misunderstood, and Duchamp’s “Fountain” was interpreted in another way. That anything can be art, like a light going on and off by Martin Creed, (2000), a can of excrement by a Pietro Manzoni, (1961), a pile of bricks by Karl Andre, (1966 ) and more recently Tracy Emin’s My Bed (1999) is what replaced beauty.

Has art become a gesture like any other, no different from laughing or crying? Therefore, is it surprising that we are unable to distinguish the value of quality architecture and give it its due value?

This displacement of beauty from our lives has resulted in indifference to great architecture in Malta. Many argue and believe that a mammoth intellectual exercise like designing a Parliament in a town like Valletta, is no different from any other activity and should not be given precedence. What effect this will have on our capital city in the long term is anybody’s guess. 

Madeleine Gera, Valletta

A disaster called Gozo! 


Gozo, especially Victoria, has been a complete disaster for the last 10 months. The works at Savina and It-Tokk squares were supposed to last about from two to three months. 10 months later and the works are far from being finished. Rumour has it that works will not finish till at least next September.

Anyone can go to the Savina and It-Tokk areas and you’ll see about eight idle machines and maybe two people doing some work. The Citadel area also is a complete disaster and looks like works there are going to take a very long time.

At least 95% of the roads in Gozo are in a terrible state and yet car registrations keep going up. Truth is there is not much going on anywhere in Gozo. The Victoria area is constantly at a gridlock and traffic lights at St Francis Square were installed at the wrong place. In my opinion they should have been installed right across from Tapies Bar.

As in most other projects the ones in Victoria are long overdue and over budget! Did the PL learn anything from the mistakes that the PN committed? The answer is no. Not a thing! Every so often the government brings up the Gozo bridge or the Gozo tunnel subject. But only to distract people, taking them for fools.

Talk at St Francis square is that the PL is much worse than the PN ever was with regard to Gozo. Imagine trying to build a bridge or a tunnel! It would probably take years and years, considering that the Mgarr to St. Lawrence road is not even finished yet after so many years.

The PN’s record in Gozo was dismal to say the least and it looks like the PL’s will be even worse.
It seems that the government and the ministry for transport are in complete hibernation with regard to Gozo.

J Buttigieg, Xewkija

Xemxija - sunny side no more

It is undeniable that the proposed high building in Triq is-Simar, Xemxija is being vigorously opposed, for many valid reasons, by all the residents  of this area and by others who have the environment at heart.

We are repeatedly told that the will of the people is supreme and that the authorities are there to safeguard the people`s rights. Otherwise how can we citizens have faith in the institutions.

Well, here we have a situation where the residents are 100% against this development. These are the communities  of Triq is-Simar, Triq l-Oqbra Punici, Triq ir-Ridott and the lower part of Triq Raddet ir-Roti, with an estimated population of around 500 residents who oppose this project, with not a single person being in favour.

In view of all this, will the MEPA appeals board take this into consideration when it comes to decide on this building permit?

As we see it, smiles and handshakes are no good to us. This is a matter of life or death because we are no fools or imbeciles. Should this high building ever materialise, Xemxija to us will not be Xemxija, “sunny side”, any more and for one thing the value of our property will fall while that of the speculator will go sky high.

C. Xuereb, R. Camilleri, A. Brincat, Xemxija