shops, bakers and vendors
Ix-Xuwa by Text Catalogue (Andrew Darmanin and Ella Fleri Soler) and Andrea Zerafa
Bull Street, Valletta
installation (metal plates and rings)
Departing from the concept of the third place – which refers to spaces such as local bakeries, grocery stores, barber shops, and public places of interaction within the community – the artists for this theme wanted to investigate everyday objects that are used for typical transactions, like getting a haircut. In third places, backgrounds are forgotten, the focus shifts on the objective of the vendor or service being provided.
At the start of the exercise, the artist collective remained open to the various businesses in the Biċċerija area, investigating the different streams of relationships that developed in relation to these trades and services. Increasingly, it became evident that the area had a strong history related to its surrounding bakeries. During the initial research phase of fuse, bakeries were identified beyond the Biċċerija building itself, and research was carried out to ascertain practices related to bread-making. Eventually, the artists tackling this theme became motivated to identify an object that could be replicated, whose inherent nature was not particularly inclined towards sales, but more towards exchange.
Ċombi. Cippep. Laned. Id-dixx ta’ nhar ta’ Ħadd.
Patata l-forn. It-turġien.
During one of the visits to Borg Bakery – the sole bakery left operating at Dui Balli (adjacent to the Biċċerija area) – its baker dug up the last-remaining ċombi he had kept from the days where he would cook Sunday roasts for members of the community. Coincidentally, the local blacksmith working next door to the baker had a clear memory of his father – also a blacksmith – spending years producing ċombi for the Biċċerija bakers. With the ċombi becoming that sought-after replicable object, the artists’ work developed into an intervention incorporating approximately 5000 ċombi, repeating the exact ċomba given to the team by the baker to be used as a prototype. The artists then spent significant amount of time experimenting, looking for ways to connect the individual parts (ċombi) to create a whole. Ultimately, this would result in a curtain-like installation composed of ċombi. As well as the shape and form of the ċombi themselves, the artists also replicated the numbers which were stamped on each individual plate, augmenting the notion of repetition through their making process.
The numbers represented unique families.
The numbers represented their home-cooked meals.
Altogether, the numbers represent a community.
Following a laborious stamping process, the team, volunteers and artists connected all the ċombi together. Initially, we had hoped for more community involvement, to enable members of the community to take part in creating work that represented an aspect of their identity. But due to the limitations imposed by the pandemic, we had to rethink the process. The curtain-like intervention was installed on one of the prominent corners of the Biċċerija building itself, fully integrating with the built fabric of the place as well as with the community that has spent time explaining the work to passers-by.
'Ix-Xuwa' has been divided in parts and distributed among local residents and team members.