Problem Solved

An answer to the vacant seat of power

The digital collage titled “Problem Solved” engages in a dialogue with Austin Camilleri’s “Siġġu,” offering a response that seeks to encapsulate the hopeful narrative of a fresh beginning for Malta. Yet, beneath its exterior, there exists a layer of irony, contrasting the idealistic portrayal with the harsh realities of the island’s daily political landscape.

Centred in the artwork is the figure of the newly-sworn-in President Myriam Spiteri Debono, digitally edited to sit on the otherwise empty chair, a direct nod to Austin Camilleri’s controversial installation “Siġġu,” which featured an empty throne in front of Queen Victoria’s monument in Valletta’s Republic Square. While Camilleri’s commissioned work – the centrepiece of the second Malta Biennale – sparked wide discussions on neocolonial mindsets and the invisible forces shaping Maltese society, this digital creation takes a different trajectory. The digital collage is based upon the showcase photo presented on Camilleri’s social media, thus it is requalified as an artwork itself. At the same time, “Problem Solved” overturns the original thematic by symbolising and suggesting resolution, bridging divides, and thus, metaphorically addressing and “resolving” the issues underscored by Camilleri’s “Siġġu.”

President Spiteri Debono, depicted with a posture of dignity, resolve, and approachability, embodies the aspiration for a leadership that is both visible and accessible, echoing her own words upon taking office. Could her presence in the chair be the answer to the hundreds of arguments that “Siġġu” provoked? With an informal posture, her feet dangling over the pedestal’s grandeur, she symbolizes familiarity and instills hope for governance centered on dialogue, integrity, and the well-being of the Maltese people above all else. That is what the Maltese are hoping for.

This piece sets itself apart from the Malta Biennale’s conservative thematic pursuits by ironically intertwining the modern historical context highlighted by the state-backed festival with the pressing contemporary issues facing the nation. Despite the artist’s optimistic aspirations for resolution, this hope is continually undercut by the pervasive stories of corruption and political turmoil that afflict Malta on a daily basis. Thus, the conversation surrounding national identity, governance, and collective ambition must evolve to acknowledge a present tainted by recent adversities.

This artwork is not merely a visual representation but a call to action. It invites onlookers to reflect on the significance of moral values, the importance of safeguarding these principles, and the role of leadership in fostering a society where dialogue, compromise, and respect for the constitution reign supreme. It is a visual manifesto, urging both citizens and political leaders to embrace a future where governance is not a seat of power but a seat of service to the people.

“Problem Solved” thus becomes more than an artistic creation; it is a symbol of the collective resolution of the Maltese people to move forward, leaving behind discord and division. It represents a hope for a new dawn, one where the wounds of the past and the scars of corruption, are acknowledged and healed through concerted efforts towards unity and integrity. The artist provocatively questions the spirit of a nation and whether it is ready to fully embrace its identity, learn from its history, and work towards a future that honours humanitarian principles and the values of the nation, as represented by the role of the President of Malta.

It was originally posted on the artist’s Facebook Page on April 4, 2024. It was also shared on the artist’s personal Facebook profile himself sparking various reactions.

Size 20 × 29 cm
Medium Digital Print

The digital collage “Problem Solved” is an answer to the many questions raised by “Siġġu” – the vacant seat of power