Another ‘Brikkun’ in the wall | Mario Vella

MARIO VELLA, frontman for Brikkuni and outspoken commentator on the cultural scene, contends with the most philosophical question ever asked about art. Can you live off it?

Brikkuni frontman Mario Vella
Brikkuni frontman Mario Vella

It may be an impression of mine, but the Malta ‘arts scene’ – to use a phrase that is sufficiently bound to mean practically anything – seems to be caught up in an intrinsic contradiction.

We may have discovered the notion of ‘creative industries’… but the creative industrial revolution has yet to take place.

As one of the more outspoken actors on that particular stage, Mario Vella has long argued that Malta’s artistic scene requires an infrastructure to be built up almost completely from scratch. Currently poised for the release of Brikkuni’s third studio album, he is perhaps more aware than most of the practical hurdles facing the struggling musician in today’s world.

Which I suppose makes him part of the paradox himself: though one of Malta’s ‘successful’ artists, he is still compelled to rely on external funding to do the thing for which he is best known.

Apart from the distribution of funds, there is also the question of origins. Recently, for instance, it was announced that monies raised by MEPA through permits for high-rise buildings would be channelled into the arts. Officially, the intention is to pump more money into artistic endeavours… but it sounds more like a retrospective justification of an enormously controversial planning policy.

Vella nods. “That’s how I interpreted it, too. But that’s also part of the reality of such finds. Each time I accepted funding for a project, I was conscious that I was tapping into a fund financed by various taxes… in other words, by the general public. But what I find worrying is that in the most popular and prominent sectors of the Maltese arts scene there is a near total lack of social conscience.

" Either that, or the social conscience it expresses is a very simplistic one that panders to non-controversial themes. I’m not saying that to be a valid artist you have to be politically active… there are millions of examples of non-political artists who had a huge impact on the cultural world. But then again, an artistic scene almost completely lacking in social conscience, with no real drive to struggle against the same establishment that feeds it… I’d say that’s a dead art scene.”

Read the full interview in today's edition of MaltaToday