Project Category: Installation

Open Streets Day 2019

MOVE, a Maltese NGO member of ISCA which works within culture and physical education, invited me to participate in the Open Streets Day 2019 events organised in the main square of Żejtun.

Whilst streets were closed for cars and made accessible to pedestrians and cyclists, I was requested to decorate the main street with a written poem in Maltese language. The installation was executed in a freehand technique using coloured chalk. 

The poetry read:

id-daħk tat-tfal,

kitarra u trumbetta;

u mhux karozzi.
Fit-triq jien ngħix
maltemp jew bnazzi.

Kultura ta’ dari,
kultura ta’ llum.
Fit-triq noħlom il-futur.

Consumatum Est

The Catholic religion and its traditions still hold a strong influence over the majority of the Maltese population. On Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, large numbers of people flock to Valletta to witness, partake in, or simply be a part of the various rituals that unfold. During these days, individuals engage in prayers, visit themed exhibitions, and collect holy pictures, while a procession of participants dressed in Biblical costumes, accompanied by brass bands and individuals carrying statues representing different stages of Christ’s suffering, make their way through the crowds.

“Consumatum Est,” featured a digitally manipulated holy picture portraying the lifeless body of Christ affixed to a tower crane shaped like a crucifix. In recent years, tower cranes have become a ubiquitous presence in the Maltese landscape, viewed by protesters as symbols of destruction. The framed picture was prominently displayed in a window at a local grocery shop on Archbishop Street in Valletta. Unveiled on the morning of Thursday, April 18, 2019, it enticed passersby to pause and contemplate what initially appeared to be a conventional sacred image.

However, beyond the religious rituals and artistic interpretations, a deeper message resonates. The installation symbolically highlights the detrimental consequences of unchecked environmental exploitation, resource exhaustion, and land abuse. These issues have plagued the country for far too long, leaving both the nation and the quality of life metaphorically “nailed to death.”

Through the juxtaposition of religious symbolism and the towering presence of the cranes, “Consumatum Est” prompted viewers to reflect on the urgent need for responsible stewardship of our environment. It drew attention to the consequences of our actions, emphasizing that our unchecked consumption and disregard for sustainability have dire implications for our society.

Heartfelt gratitude goes to the Spanish sculptor, Juan Bautista, for generously permitting the reinterpretation of his sculpture for this purpose. A word of appreciation also goes to Sunny Psaila, who graciously offered his shop window as a space for the installation. Additionally, many thanks go to the talented photographer, Carl Farrugia, who skillfully captured the setup through his lenses, immortalizing it for posterity.


Bejn is-Swar

During the ‘L-Aħħar Festa’ festivities in Valletta on December 15, 2018, which marked the conclusion of Valletta’s tenure as the European Capital of Culture, a particular wall became a hub for interaction.

Despite the adverse weather conditions that plagued Valletta that day, individuals were encouraged to contribute to the artwork by leaving their own mark on the “wall.” This could be achieved through painting directly on it or by attaching their thoughts on sticky notes and sharing polaroid selfies. The aim was to cover the entire wall with photographs, symbolizing the city’s vibrant life, characterized by continuous human engagement and connections.

The poem, composed in the Maltese language, narrates an intimate moment experienced within the city. Although it explicitly refers to a physical encounter between two individuals, the poem metaphorically represents the artist’s deep affection for their hometown.

Nifs f’nifs
bil-ħin friżat fuq ħoġorna,
insir nafek.
Sa ma għada jisbaħ.
Sa ma jasal tmiem.
Taħt liżar stilel,
fil-għatx tar-ruħ,

The Gingerbread Men

This installation features around 2,500 edible gingerbread men, each about 15 cm tall, inspired by the rebellious character in the 1875 tale “The Gingerbread Boy.” These gingerbread men, expected to be inanimate as dictated by their ingredients, become symbols of activism and defiance whilst occupying the gallery space. The dense arrangement of gingerbread men symbolises the collective power of individuals coming together. However, like the rebellious gingerbread boy who is ultimately consumed into oblivion by the cunning fox, the installation reflects not just on the opportunities provided by collectivity but also the potential perils of misplaced trust and support.

Additionally, the installation features a custom-built social media network titled Occupy, accessible publicly through an online URL which users can access via their mobile devices. Visitors are invited to pick and eat a gingerbread man, each packaged with a printed message and a link to the Occupy network. By doing so, the audience is encouraged to engage with both the physical and virtual aspects of the project, blurring the lines between personal and social spaces. This interaction also highlights how social media can act like the cunning fox, raising questions about the heightened or alienated awareness of people using social media.

“The Gingerbread Man” challenges participants to move beyond mere consumption of social media and actively contribute to a political discourse that underscores the potential of art and social media as drivers of social change. It presents an artistic choreography of assembly through social media—a reflection of reality in which people overcome personal boundaries, become aware of their circumstances, and take an active role in society. People join the movement or retreat: with each gingerbread man being consumed, visitors are left with a message in hand, thus raising questions about the consumption of social media and the consumption of our realities.

This project is an invitation to examine how art and social media intertwine to foster collective awareness and action, urging participants to consider their roles in the digital and physical worlds.

“The Gingerbread Man” is a visual project which Pawlu Mizzi conceived to conclude his Master of Fine Arts in Digital Media research exploring how social media can serve as a tool and space for art to drive social narratives.

Il-Qasma Soċjali

Il-Qasma Soċjali shed light on the extremist attitude of some Maltese towards immigration from North African countries into Malta. A ceramic toilet was decorated with various colourful hatred comments posted on Facebook by various Maltese users. Inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s sarcasm in “Fountain”, the concept was re-appropriated into Maltese contemporary politics.

Il-Qasma Soċjali translates into The Social Divide, yet it refers to the use of the word Qasma in vulgar Maltese which refers to a bowel incontinence and a sudden urge to poo. The artwork was signed off as ARMAT with reference to Duchamp’s “R.Mutt” signing off for “Fountain”. Whilst sounding the same, ARMAT in the Maltese language stands for “equipped”. In colloquial contexts, it refers to someone being equipped with some dangerous defensive tools.

Qasma Soċjali made part of a collective effort by artists Darren Tanti, Chris Castillo, Keith Bonnici and Pawlu Mizzi under the pseudonym Nagħaġ (Sheep) for the 2013 Earth Garden Festival.

The Death of Malta

“Death of Malta” is a digital print on canvas by Pawlu Mizzi that depicts the metaphorical death of Malta through a digital collage. It explores historical and social themes in a unique and thought-provoking manner, drawing inspiration from the notable artworks of Jacques-Louis David’s “Death of Marat” (1793) and Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” (1937).

The central figure in the artwork draws inspiration from sculptor John Bonnici’s Independence monument in Floriana, depicting Malta as a triumphant woman liberating herself from the weight of the past. However, in “Death of Malta,” the central figure is depicted as a dying woman, desperately holding onto life. Her body is stained with blood as she clings to the eight-pointed cross and a handwritten letter pressed against her breasts.

The artwork presents a crime scene where Malta has been presumably murdered, with only an electoral identification document as a clue to the assailant’s identity. This draws inspiration from “Death of Marat,” which depicts the aftermath of Marat’s assassination by Charlotte Corday, with a bloodied knife lying on the floor. Additionally, blue and red brush strokes near the head symbolize the divisive political landscape in Malta, where socialist and nationalist ideologies have brainwashed and alienated the victim.

By incorporating a deceased figure and a treason letter, the artwork explores themes of mortality, betrayal, and the consequences of revolutionary attempts. The altered letter, replacing “Marat” with “Malta,” symbolizes a disruptive element within Malta’s socio-political context. The inclusion of the eight-pointed cross, derived from the design of the Malta Euro Coin, questions the values and virtues cherished by the Maltese population.

Unlike the illuminated portrayal of Jean-Paul Marat in David’s artwork, the deceased Malta is shrouded in darkness, amplifying a sense of mystery and impending tragedy.

Elements from Picasso’s “Guernica” are also integrated into the artwork, reflecting the chaos of war. The blood splattered on the dying figure in “Death of Malta” echoes the violent imagery of “Guernica.” The light bulb represents the dying figure’s last act and the loss of enlightenment, signifying looming consequences within Malta’s socio-political circumstances.

Furthermore, the scar on the horse in “Guernica,” symbolizing suffering and resilience, is depicted as a scar on the female figure’s lower abdomen in “Death of Malta.” This visual metaphor poignantly represents the lasting pain and trauma endured by the Maltese people and the impending catastrophe that will impact future generations.

The artwork is signed-off with the inclusion of a Dominican symbol, which is the cover illustration for Mark Montebello O.P.’s book “Il-fidwa tal-Anarkiżmu” which greatly inspired the artist in the conception of “Death of Malta.” The Latin phrase “Vigiles Fidei et Verae Mundi Lumina” translates to “Watchmen of the Faith and Lights of the True World” and is associated with the Dominican Order of Preachers, highlighting their unwavering commitment to promoting and defending the Catholic faith. In the context of the artwork, this conclusion takes on a sarcastic tone.

“Death of Malta” was displayed on the floor of a corridor and framed by a physical collage of newspaper cuttings referencing contemporary political reportage. Similar to the narrative of the Good Samaritan, visitors were presented with the unsettling choice of stepping over the dying figure or walking past it over the surrounding newspaper collage.

This digital artwork was part of a collective exhibition held between July 9 and August 14, 2012 at St James Cavalier – Centre for Creativity, now Spazju Kreattiv, in Valletta. The collective was titled ‘MIRRORED | Critical Reflections’ and featured works by University of Malta students, namely Ascione Maurizio, Bonnici Keith, Borg David, Calleja Keith, Camillleri Karl, Corrieri Raffaella, Dingli Andrea, Fleri Soler Ella, Galea Stephanie, Grech Jacob, Mizzi Pawlu, Muscat Zach, Tonna Nicholas and Xuereb Steve. This student collective was under the supervision and tuition of Dr. John Grech at The University of Malta.

The Media

Going back to the masters – Review for Times of Malta by Charlene Vella

The Gut: a multimedia tribute to Strada Stretta’s golden era

The Splendid lounge bar and guest house in Valletta was transformed into an art exhibition space in 2011 as part of the ‘Strada Stretta’ revival exhibition. The event was a collaborative effort between 15 artists, designers, and photographers aimed at creating a cultural incubator in Valletta which is a UNESCO World Heritage city. The ‘Strada Stretta’ exhibition was part of a European project funded by the Med Territorial Cooperation program and organized by Fondazzjoni Temi Zammit (FTZ), a regional development agency at the University of Malta.

The exhibition was held in the Splendid, a venue with an evocative atmosphere that perfectly suited the showcase of the remnants of its former glory. The space was adorned with vintage furniture, tattered upholstery, nostalgic trinkets, decaying toys, a deteriorating staircase, and neglected clothing, all waiting for a revival. As visitors walked through, they were transported to a time long gone, and the ghosts of the past seemed to whisper mysterious stories.

“The Gut,” a multimedia performance showcased at the Strada Stretta bar, featured an interactive video installation by Danjeli Schembri, Julian Mallia, and Pawlu Mizzi. Visitors were invited to sit at an old piano, supplied by Pawlu Mizzi, and “play the notes of the Splendid” by a handwritten invitation hanging from a bulb in the middle of the room. Each unique combination of piano keys played revealed a digital, animated projection of a character from times gone by in a surreal composition. The piano acted like a dream machine, bringing to life the characters that gave Strada Stretta its identity. The exhibit allowed visitors to experience the lifestyle of the Gut, and its striking visuals, typography, and presentation made it an instant hit among visitors. The project evolved over time, taking on a surreal tinge that characterized the chaotic, cheerful, and lively feel of Strada Stretta. The musical collage by Danjeli, the disproportionate size of illustrated characters by Mallia, and the typographic arrangements by Mizzi along the walls, all contributed to this effect.

The Splendid project received considerable attention from visitors, with hundreds of people exploring the nostalgic rooms during the opening night alone. The event was widely deemed as successful, and the Splendid was established as one of the most coveted cultural venues in Valletta. Despite this achievement, the revival of Strada Stretta to its previous splendor never came to fruition, as a contemporary catering and entertainment enterprise took over the street, leaving much to be desired.

Media References
  1. Lisa Gwen – Coming Strait from the gut – The Times of Malta. April 28, 2011
  2. Rosianne Cutajar – Strada Stretta tiehu l-hajja mill-gdid… – ONE TV. April 17, 2011
  3. Pamela Hansen – Strada Stretta