domesticity in public space
Inside-Out by Samuel Ciantar
St Dominic Street, Valletta
three-piece installation, mixed media
From the start of fuse, strong relationships were developed with the residents of St Dominic Street. Once the pandemic struck, they took initiative to decorate the street’s steps with rows of plants. This also became common in other nearby areas, such as Eagle Street.
Regeneration. Neglect. Maintenance. Weddings on the steps. Television sets in the street.
Communal meals. Appropriation. Il-birra. Il-kafe. Il-mug.
Samuel’s sensitivity to plant ecologies, together with an initial theoretical concept relating to botanical rhizomes, made it clear that the theme of ‘resilience’ would be a good match for him. After listening to the experiences of the residents, an instinct to re-create and re-imagine other ways of communal living came to the fore, taking into account a coexistence between plants and people – like people, plants are species able to live in both external and internal environments. Samuel also wanted to blur preconceptions between outside and inside spaces by using familiar or identifiable furniture, such as a wardrobe and a bath, typically used internally, in an outdoor context. This enabled the development of an intervention that eliminated distinction between the area’s external spaces and its homes; demonstrating that they were actually an extension of each other.
With Samuel’s work, the definition of public space takes on new meaning, with upcycled and repurposed furniture being placed externally, partially serving as a bench and making way for space to cultivate even more plants. Throughout the research phase, together with the residents, we identified plants that suited St Dominic Street, with the intention that these would be distributed once the project is over.
Additionally, a third component brought in an audio-visual piece integrated within an old CRT television set. Throughout the research phase of fuse, we were told that, in the past, having a TV was a luxury for residents. TVs were therefore brought out from homes to be enjoyed by the people in the street, bringing the whole community together. We wanted to recreate this communal scenario. Sound artist Jamie Barbara worked with Samuel to add a sonic dimension to the work. Together, they extracted tiny, physical vibrations using sensitive microphones for several hours from the existing plants in St Dominic Street. Meanwhile, video artist Jacob Saliba generated data to create moving graphics that were triggered by the composed melodic soundscape; enabling the plants to evocatively broadcast their presence.
Part of 'Inside-Out' has been taken over by the residents in St Dominic Street and plants are being maintained. The part featuring an upcycled wardrobe has been changed into a permanent planter beneath the window of the School of Art.