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La Biennale di Venezia | Malta pavilion : homo melitensis: an incomplete inventory in 19 chapters

57th International Art Exhibition‐ La Biennale di Venezia

Malta pavilion

13 may – 26 november 2017


For the first time since 1999 there will be a maltese pavilion
at La Biennale Arte with the exhibition
homo melitensis: an incomplete inventory in 19 chapters

13 may – 26 november 2017
Malta Pavilion, Artiglierie in the Arsenale, La Biennale di Venezia
official pavilion inauguration: 14:30, wednesday 10 May, 2017


After an absence of almost two decades, this year brings the return of Malta to La Biennale di Venezia to the Biennale Arte 2017, the 57th International Art Exhibition. 2017 is a year of cultural resurgence for Malta: the country currently has the role of Presidency of the Council of the European Union and soon the capital city, Valletta will be the European Capital of Culture in 2018. The presence of the Malta Pavilion places the country under an international spotlight and hails the start of a new era for the nation’s contemporary art scene.

The conceptual exhibition: Homo Melitensis: An Incomplete Inventory in 19 Chapters delivers an associative investigation of Maltese identity in a complex installation that brings artworks, objects, and documents together in a non-hierarchical, a-chronological setup. The 19 chapters will take audiences on an elaborate journey that travels simultaneously in different directions, taking in specimens of natural history, a national genome, an ancient shipwreck, migration, cartography, ritualistic objects, transgender characters, and other artefacts that playfully combine fact and fiction, identity construction and deconstruction, with subversive objects meeting obedient objects.

The 19 characters of the Maltese alphabet have also been used as chapter headings by the artist-curators Raphael Vella and Bettina Hutschek, who have explained that: “The relationship between chapter titles and individual letters of the alphabet is perhaps arbitrary, but we liked the idea that a Maltese alphabet made of both Semitic and Latin roots could represent the hybrid nature of identity that our ‘incomplete inventory’ represents.” The result is a spirited, often provocative address of Maltese cultural identity, history, religion, myths and politics, expressed through over 200 items of ephemera and historical artefacts and the work of 13 Maltese contemporary artists either based in Malta from the Maltese diaspora. It brings together examples of what is fascinating and fantastical, imaginative and inspiring about Maltese culture, and places contemporary art at the heart of it. Homo Melitensis is a Maltese man – an everyman – who dwells on the island surrounded by the sea and ancient relics. Each letter of the alphabet becomes a chapter that has been attributed a sub-heading to explore ‘his’ or Malta’s history, be it through dreams, memories, war, diaspora or daily life. For instance, the letter ‘D’ represents the ‘fortified island’ and the great feats of engineering to construct the walls made by the Medieval Knights to defend Valletta, and that so impressed author Jules Verne when he travelled there in 1884. Within the exhibition, ancient maps, armour and weapons sit alongside post-war photographs of the bombed city. These now multi-purpose walls are reflected in the triptych of paintings by Nigerian born, Maltese artist Teresa Sciberras, that include Circumscribed 3, which explore barriers and boundaries.

Saintly iconography is incorporated into Darren Tanti’s L’Annalisa – a modern, young Maltese woman featured in ‘G’ for ‘physiognomy’, in a chapter that examines the ‘face’ of the Maltese. ‘Subjects to avoid when talking to strangers’ is the heading for ‘Ġ’, which looks at censorship, swearing, political correctness and taboos. Satirical cartoonists Joe Sacco and Maurice Tanti Burlò (popularly known as Nalizpelra) address the reaction to the immigration crisis in The Unwanted and hunting lobbyists in Shots for Votes, respectively. David Pisani’s photograph Strait Street depicts what was once Valletta’s gathering point for prostitutes and Roxman Gatt‘s animation Virgin Mary’s Love Juice playfully juxtaposes religious images and blasphemy; both sit under the same heading that details information on Malta’s abortion policy.

‘GĦ’ stands for ‘Gender and/or’ and features the works of the London based Maltese artist Gilbert Calleja. His works titled Liminal are a series of dazzling and intimate portraits of transgender life, challenging a prehistoric clay statue of an ideal female torso, also exhibited in the same chapter. ‘Religious Objects’ feature under chapter ‘H’, illustrated by artist Austin Camilleri’s Rosary – made up of dozens of crying baby heads replacing traditional rosary beads which contrast with a plastic bottle of holy water in the shape of the Madonna, among more traditional paraphernalia. Further holy relics are represented and reimagined in sculpture by Aaron Bezzina with his Untitled (cruci-hammer and nail), which subverts the image of the cross in ‘Ħ’, ‘Us and Them’.

‘I’ stands for ‘strangers coming to stay’, featuring artist and filmmaker Pia Borg’s part essay, part science fiction film Silica which examines the Maltese diaspora, from the perspective of being born in Australia, alongside the ‘alien’ of red palm weevils which have destroyed many Maltese palm trees.

Traditional feasts occur across the Maltese islands, which bring communities together and feature over the spring and summer months, and Los Angeles-Maltese artist Adrian Abela has documented the experience of many in his film Nebula, featuring in ‘IE’ for ‘festa!!!’ Saints have inspired these events and have been captured by photographs such as the 1920 bonfire for the feast of St. John the Baptist, and the daring of a heavy man’s attempt to climb a greased pole in memory of St. Julian. Karine Rougier, an artist of Maltese origin artist based in Marseille, France, re-appropriates a vintage graphic with her own festive projection in the surreal Horses dream.

The intricate sculptures comprised of hundreds of rabbit bones symmetrically fused together by London born Maltese artist John Paul Azzopardi – as seen in Opus Medico-Chymicum – are in the chapter ‘L’ for ‘between melangia and uff’, which addresses past lives and nostalgia, but also visions of the future (as seen in 1945).

Homo Melitensis: An Incomplete Inventory in 19 Chapters brings together works by artists based in Malta, works by artists from the Maltese diaspora, folk artefacts, works from private and national collections, as well as artefacts and images from different sources, such as journalism, national and private collections and popular culture, that combine, interpret, question and define the imaginative spirit of the Maltese identity.

Arts Council Malta executive chairman Albert Marshall added: “Through the selection of around 200 objects making up the Malta Pavilion, the curatorial concept aims to create a dialogue as well as open up a discussion on who we are – or perhaps who we think we are – as Maltese people.

The Malta Pavilion centrally located inside the Arsenale in Venice will run between 13th May and 26th November 2017.

The Malta Pavilion, commissioned by Arts Council Malta, as part of an incentive to showcase Maltese arts internationally is centrally located at the Artiglierie in the Arsenale Area in Venice. It forms part of the 57th International Art Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia and opens from 13th May till 26th November 2017. -Ends-


UK & international media enquiries, images and interview requests please contact: Emma Pettit or Ilona Cheshire at Margaret_ on +44 (0) 207 739 8203 / /

For Malta media enquiries, please contact: Sandra Borg, Communication Executive, Arts Council Malta: +356 2339 7026

Notes to Editors:

Image above: Taxidermy Maltese rabbit. National Museum of Natural History, Mdina, Malta. Photo: Alexandra Pace. Courtesy Heritage Malta



Arts Council Malta The Malta Pavilion is commissioned by Arts Council Malta under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice, Culture, and Local Government. It also forms part of the cultural program of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2017. Malta’s participation in the 57th International Art Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia reflects the international ambitions of Arts Council Malta and is one of seventy actions being implemented as part of Create 2020, the Council’s five-year strategy for the cultural and creative sectors.



Bettina Hutschek

Bettina Hutschek is a visual artist, filmmaker, and curator who lives and works between Malta and Berlin. After studying art history and philosophy (BA) in Florence and Augsburg, she received her MA from Universität der Künste (UdK), Berlin, and her MFA from HGB Leipzig. She trained and worked in art mediation and spent a year as a visiting scholar at the Department of Performance Studies at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She has exhibited and performed internationally; since 2013, she is also the founder and director of FRAGMENTA Malta, which organizes pop-up exhibitions in public spaces around the Maltese islands.


Raphael Vella

Raphael Vella is an artist, curator, and educator who has exhibited internationally and has been active as a curator since 2002, working with emerging and established artists in institutional and alternative settings both locally and internationally. He studied art in Malta and completed his PhD in fine arts at the University of the Arts London in 2006. He lectures at the University of Malta and has initiated several artistic and educational projects in Malta, including the Valletta International Visual Arts festival (VIVA), the Curatorial School organized by the Valletta 2018 Foundation, and Divergent Thinkers, organized by the youth agency Aġenzija Żgħażagħ.



Tom van Malderen

Tom van Malderen’s work ranges from buildings to objects, installations, and exhibition design, and probes the intersections of art, design, and architecture. After obtaining a master of architecture in Brussels, he worked in Belgium, the United Kingdom, and Malta. He holds a senior position at Architecture Project (AP).



Aaron Bezzina

Aaron Bezzina (b. 1991) earned a BA (with honors) in fine arts at MCAST Institute for the Creative Arts in 2014 and completed an MFA in digital arts at the Faculty of Media and Knowledge Sciences, University of Malta, in 2016. Bezzina has been exhibiting work both locally and overseas for several years. In 2015 he was awarded a residency by the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg. During the summer of 2016 he undertook a traineeship with the cultural association for the arts Nuova Icona in Venice. Although Bezzina’s work inclines toward the sculptural, he is also interested in other media that encourage meaning making and further associative actions.

Adrian Abela

Adrian Abela (b. 1989) studied architecture in Malta and Milan and currently lives and studies in Los Angeles. He works mainly through drawing, painting, sculpture, performance, and video. His projects lead from an interest in a particular material or narrative into an attempt at understanding the human condition and surroundings. The conception and execution of his projects often involves outsider individuals; he uses architecture-derived approaches to create informed work and establish relationships that challenge people’s perspectives on the artistic subject. Abela is currently working on public art projects in Malta and internationally. Along with several solo exhibitions in Malta, he has participated in exhibitions in Europe, Asia, and the United States.

Austin Camilleri

Austin Camilleri (b. 1972) is an artist and curator working simultaneously and nonhierarchically in painting, installation, drawing, video, and sculpture. His work has been widely exhibited in solo and group shows in Europe, the Americas, North Africa, and Asia, and he has represented Malta in major shows, winning awards. His process-driven interest led him to establish 356. He is a founding member of StArt, Fundazzjoni Klula, and ISTRA Foundation, and creates interdisciplinary events, often working with authors, composers, actors, and choreographers, together or separately. He is a visiting lecturer at the Faculty for the Built Environment, University of Malta, and has designed sets for opera and theatre. Camilleri lives in Gozo and works between Malta and Italy.

Darren Tanti

Darren Tanti (b. 1987) is an artist renowned for his technically accomplished and thematically loaded paintings. His focus is on hyper reality and the integration of the digital into exploratory painting techniques. In 2013 Tanti received a Master of fine arts degree in digital arts with distinction from the Department of Digital Arts (MaKS) of the University of Malta. Presently he is a senior lecturer of fine art at MCAST Institute for the Creative Arts. He participated in the 15th BJCEM Young Artists Biennale in Thessaloniki in 2011, and Time, Space, Existence at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2014, through Architecture Project.

David Pisani

David Pisani (b. 1965) is a photographer and an exhibiting artist. He is mostly known for his architecture and urban reportage, although his most important work focuses on the human body, the erotic nature of places and things, sexuality, and death. He is the author of an extensive personal photographic essay on Valletta titled Vanishing Valletta, which in 2000 became part of the permanent collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and was published as a monograph in 2007. Pisani has also produced a photographic essay on Dubai entitled Future City, which was commissioned by the airline Emirates for its corporate art collection. His most recent work includes photographic essays on Cyprus and the city of Kyoto, Japan. Pisani is a fanatical darkroom printer with more than twentyfive years of experience in commercial and fine art printing.

Gilbert Calleja

Gilbert Calleja (b. 1978) produces photographic documentaries based on a lengthy process of familiarization with the individuals and communities that are his subjects. This approach has characterized most of the work he has produced in the past twelve years, imbuing it with a sense of intimacy. Long-term immersion and perseverance allow him to develop relationships that subsequently grant him access to the private lives of his collaborators. He has worked with Maltese fishermen, transgender people, a priest engaged in pastoral work, and the boxing subculture.

Joe Sacco

Joe Sacco (b. 1960) is a cartoonist and journalist specializing in political themes. Born in Malta, he moved with his family first to Melbourne and then Los Angeles, where he spent his childhood. He studied journalism at the University of Oregon. Sacco frequently chronicles his travels in works that have become well known in the field of comic journalism, including Palestine (1996), The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo (2003), and Footnotes in Gaza (2009). He has won several awards for his graphic work, including the American Book Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Ridenhour Book Prize.

John Paul Azzopardi

John Paul Azzopardi (b. 1978) was born in London and currently resides in Malta. In 2008 he obtained his BA (with honors) in philosophy from the University of Malta. In 2012 the National Museum of Fine Arts, Malta, acquired his work Curved Silence (2009) to be part of their contemporary art collection. Azzopardi also works at Malta Films studio as a costume and effects artist for international film productions shooting in Malta. He has worked on HBO’s Game of Thrones (2011), Sky TV (UK) Sinbad (2011–12), Kevin Reynolds’s Risen (2014), The Dove Keepers (USA) (2014), Channel 4 (UK), You, Me, and the Apocalypse (2015), Michael Bay’s 13 Hours (2015), Terry George’s The Promise (2015), and Jose Padilha’s Entebbe (2016).

Karine Rougier

Karine Rougier (b. 1982) was born in Malta to a Maltese mother and a French father. She studied art at the École des Beaux Arts d’Aix-en-Provence in France. She was awarded the Mécènes du Sud prize in 2010. The first catalogue dedicated to her work was published in 2011 by Sextant et Plus editions. She has had solo exhibitions at Fondation Vacances Bleues, Marseille (2012), Le Cabinet, Paris (2011), Mondo Bizzaro, Rome (2010), and Maison du livre, de l’image et du son, Villeurbanne, France (2003), and she has taken part in numerous group exhibitions in France and abroad, including at GC Arte, Buenos Aires (2012), Espace de l’art concret, Mouans-Sartoux, France (2012), and Friche la Belle de Mai, Marseille (2011), as well as the art fairs Slick and DrawingNow.

 Maurice Tanti Burlò aka Nalizpelra Maurice Tanti Burlò (1936–2014) received his art education at the School of Art, Valletta, Malta; St. Michael’s Teachers’ Training College, St. Julians, Malta; and Bretton Hall College, University of Leeds, England, during which years he experimented with most styles, using a varied range of media and techniques. In 1977, angered by local political intransigence, he began his first attempts at political cartooning, which were published in the Sunday Times of Malta and the Times of Malta under the pseudonyms Nalizpelra and MTB. It was here that his artistic path split in two, running parallel and merging time and time again. Tanti Burlò continued his cartooning career up to the final days of his life.

Pia Borg

The Australian-born artist and filmmaker Pia Borg (b. 1977) makes films and installations using 16mm and 35mm photography, archives, and animation to investigate historical events and imagined futures. She was recently named one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film in Filmmaker magazine. She is the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Golden Leopard for best international short at the 2014 Locarno Film Festival for the experimental documentary Abandoned Goods. In the same year, she completed one third of the triptych film Through the Hawthorn, which was awarded the grand prize at the Stuttgart Festival of Animated Film as well as jury prizes in Krakow; Annecy, France; and the Fantoche festival in Baden, Switzerland. Her film-installation Crystal World (2013) was awarded best experimental film at the Melbourne International Film Festival, and Palimpsest (2009) received first prize at the Oriel Davies Open exhibition. Her first film, Footnote (2004), was nominated for an Australian Academy Award. Her films have been in the official selection of the Cannes Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, the Rotterdam International Film Festival, SXSW, and Experimenta, among others.

Roxman Gatt

Roxman Gatt (b. 1989) lives and works in London. She is a multidisciplinary artist whose work encompasses text, painting, video, sound, photography, installation, and performance. She received a BA in graphic design (with an emphasis on illustration) from Central Saint Martins. In the first two years, the work was mainly narrative driven, made of text and drawing. In the last year, Gatt’s work found more expressivity via time-based media, even as text remained the main source for developing work. After graduation, Roxman went on to study visual communication at the Royal College of Art, London. Through performance and moving image, Gatt’s researches explore sexuality, identity, and women in popular and low-culture contexts. Mundane aesthetics and the Internet become tools and triggers. Roxman has been awarded the Chris Garnham Prize (2015) and the Magnum Showcase Online Photography Award (2013). She has had exhibitions recently at Bloomberg New Contemporaries, London; the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Bluecoat Liverpool; and Show 2015, Royal College of Art, London.

Teresa Sciberras

Teresa Sciberras (b. 1979) is a visual artist working mainly in painting, drawing, and collage. She was born in Ibadan, Nigeria, and studied at the University of Malta, Santa Reparata International School of Art in Florence, and Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen, Scotland. Her recent exhibitions include Hortus Conclusus, Fragmenta, Malta (2016), Good Walls Make Good Neighbours, Valletta International Visual Arts Festival (2015), Little White Lies, National Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta (2012), A New Generation, Malta Contemporary Art Foundation (2010), the BJCEM Young Artists Biennale, Skopje, Macedonia (2009), Research: RSA Awards in Focus, the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh (2009), and New Contemporaries, the Royal Scottish Academy (2008). She lives and works in Malta and teaches at MCAST Institute for the Creative Arts and the University of Malta.



Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU 2017

The 2017 Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union has brought into the spotlight a vast cultural programme, which features hundreds of participating artists, both local and international, with events taking place across the Maltese Islands, all over Europe, and around the rest of the world. This celebration of culture is one of the best ways in which to truly embrace the spirit of rEUnion, which the 2017 Maltese EU Presidency has taken up as its theme, with the objective of bringing the EU closer to its citizens.

Malta Tourism Authority

The Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) has a diverse role, but one which in essence is all about creating and fostering relationships. The MTA is the tourism industry’s regulator and motivator, its business partner, the country’s brand promoter with the intent to form, maintain and manage meaningful partnerships with all tourism stakeholdersThe main role of the MTA is to promote Malta as a leading tourism destination, with special emphasis on the unique selling propositions of the Maltese Islands; Heritage, Hospitality & Diversity.Futhermore MTA is also here to help strengthen the industry’s human resources, ensure the highest standards and quality of the Islands’ tourism product, and foster relations with local and international media.

Heritage Malta

Heritage Malta is the national agency for museums, conservation practice, and cultural heritage. Created by the Cultural Heritage Act, it replaced the former Museums Department. Originally Heritage Malta was entrusted with the management of museums, sites, and their collections; in 2005 it was further charged with the takeover of the former Malta Centre for Restoration to become the national agency responsible for conservation.

Embassy of Malta in Rome

Inaugurated on February 8, 1967, the Embassy of Malta in Rome was amongst the country’s first embassies overseas following the attainment of Independence in 1964. Geographical proximity and intense cultural, historical and personal ties prevailing for centuries continue to facilitate the enhancement of the wide spectrum of relations as reflected in Italo-Maltese political, economic and cultural cooperation.

Valletta 2018 Foundation

The Valletta 2018 Foundation is driving cultural, social, and economic regeneration in Valletta and the Maltese Islands through collaboration, exchange, and innovative practice. The Valletta 2018 Foundation is responsible for the European Capital of Culture program in Malta. The program consists of events and projects developed organically with various local and international communities in preparation for the year 2018.

Bank of Valletta

Bank of Valletta is the leading financial services provider in Malta, offering the full spectrum of financial services, including investments, business and personal banking as well as self-service multichannel banking. The bank strongly believes that it is an integral part of the community in which it operates and is therefore committed to taking an active role in society. Patronage of arts and culture constitutes one of the cornerstones of its corporate responsibility. As such, Bank of Valletta is proud to support this prestigious event that showcases Maltese contemporary artists alongside their international peers.

Francis Sultana

International interior & furniture designer and CEO of David Gill Gallery, Francis Sultana is a collector of contemporary art and design. Francis Sultana co-founded the Design Fund for the V&A and now sits on the International Council for the museum. He is also on the board of MICAS, Malta’s new museum project to house contemporary art & design. A book covering Francis’s Sultana’s approach to art and design will be published in 2018.

Malta Enterprise

Malta Enterprise is the country’s economic development agency, tasked with attracting new foreign direct investment as well as facilitating the growth of existing operations. It is the driving force behind the creation of the Institute of Foreign Direct Investment Studies, and also the national contact point for the Enterprise Europe Network through which companies based in Malta can develop links with counterparts in over 60 other countries.

Architecture Project

Architecture Project (AP) is a Malta-based, multinational, multidisciplinary architectural practice. AP has twenty-five years of experience and has continuously been expanding its field of activity. Its spirit is independent of any specific mission chosen a priori. Each project tackled contains a collection of ideas, some tried and tested, others new and unprompted, whose unorthodox overlap and unsettling combination is what brings the product to life.



Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU 2017 | Malta Tourism Authority | Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government | Heritage Malta | Embassy of Malta in Rome


The Valletta 2018 Foundation | Bank of Valletta | Francis Sultana | Malta Enterprise | AP


Grimaldi Group | Malta Industrial Parks Limited | Għaqda tal-Pawlini | Investment Project | Għaqda Każin Banda San Filep Żebbuġ | Sullivan Maritim

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