In my perennial quest towards an artistic expression that serves my soul I have come to terms with my need not to accommodate; institutions, social norms or my own self. The affection towards anything that is absurd and away from the obvious is now a constant obsession in my research.
In my 2020 discussions with curator Melanie Erixon about possible fresh works, we thought it would be great to revisit a past research and posing it into the contemporary disrupting climate of the pandemic. The restrictions imposed on the social and the individual realities have indeed disrupted all of us. The pandemic is a protagonist game-changer that has manipulated how we behave; how we eat, how we relate, how we have sex, how we breathe, how we experience our innate human senses. Starring in such an unprecedented crisis we are being asked to shut down our relations; to stop being human. We all started doubting our own existence and our identity; private and collective.
In the past week I exchanged reflections about this project with my friend and social sciences expert Dr Alex Grech who reminded me how most of us are nowadays locked into Social Media platforms. “We are dependent on their affordances to navigate our sociality and mediate our identities. In our love affair with Silicon Valley, we have gone from the early innocence of private horizontal exchanges with those we know in the offline world to the spectacle of online performance: we watch, lurk, comment, troll, cancel, share and wait for others to acknowledge our existence. We are all in this together – including those who watch over us and harvest our data for their private means. In the process, we explore, destroy and renew our personas, from completely anonymous to the mundanely familiar.”
The (Facebook) Portrait Project II – Fading Social Distancing Facebook group was a call launched on Sunday, 27 December 2020, inviting people from across the globe to participate in a social exercise of collective portraiture in which the popular urge to come together is metaphorically illustrated. In this virtual coming together the private is represented as public and vice versa. 363 people from across the globe decided to take up the call by the end of year deadline through direct or indirect invite. A collective ‘portrait’ was created for every ten consecutive group members through the re-appropriation of one of their own profile pictures on Facebook. Participants were later invited to use the group platform and share thoughts and reactions about social distancing and the urge for human touch – highlighting the common climate that is currently ruling us. All portraits, 37 to be precise, were printed on aluminium dibond and set up into my third solo exhibition that will hopefully be launched at Il-Kamra ta’ Fuq in Mqabba on April 17.
Alex was intrigued with participants agreeing to share and redefine their own identity with the artist and others: “The pandemic has forced us to remove the final vestige of humanity in the offline world and into social distancing. We are slowly being deprived of our seven basic senses, for our own good. We are masked and yet connected, peering into our screens, trying make sense of what we are, and what we may yet become. Our lives are disrupted, but social media will yet be our salvation and keep us safe from ourselves and unknown others. Won’t it?”
Whilst a dash of narcissism ensues, through which most will try to identify their existence within the collective, the exercise is a deeper research of the self away from the idealised view of who we all think we are. Identities get blurred or lost within the disturbing collective combination. Each artwork relates the questions “Who are you?, Who are we? What’s happening to us?. The big challenge is to make sense out of it all and knowing what is the ultimate beneficiary of all this effort.
The exhibition WIĊĊ IMB WIĊĊ will be open at Il-Kamra ta’ Fuq between April 27 and May 18 and can be visited strictly by appointment. You can make a booking or purchase an artwork by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Art Sweven, Il-Kamra ta’ Fuq or the artist on email@example.com. All artworks are limited edition of three and selling at €125.
WIĊĊ IMB WIĊĊ is being curated by Melanie Erixon from Artsweven.
25 April 2021 – The intimacy among strangers – Joseph Agius, Times of Malta
22 April 2021 – Interview for Illum ma’ Steph
16 April 2021 – Interview for Meander
7 April 2021 – Interview for Maltarti
30 December 2020 – A social exercise of portrait creation, The Times of Malta