In 2011, a multimedia installation transformed Valletta’s Strada Stretta into an interactive time machine, transporting visitors to the heyday of the area’s iconic bars and clubs. The installation, titled “The Gut,” featured an installation that invited viewers to become protagonists in a surreal performance showcasing the Strada Stretta bar scene of yesteryear.
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.