The displacement of individuals and families from one location in Valletta to another was an overriding project aspect outlined at the very start of the research phase. As an area that was undergoing regeneration, people were not only moving out of the Biċċerija area because they were allocated alternative accommodation, but also because they could not afford the standard of living.
Boutique Hotels. Airbnbs. Turisti. Construction.
Ħafna min-nies telqu. Id-djar kienu mimlijin sa ruħ ommhom.
Is-sens ta’ komunità qed tmut, aħna biss baqa’.
Taking on a quasi-activist approach, a number of site observation and community engagement sessions reinforced the hypothesis that the boundaries of the Biċċerija were subject to various interpretations. The parameters of the area were important to the project, but these remained largely undefined. The performance piece empowered the Biċċerija locals to take ownership over their identities, flexing this narrative of the unknown and adding an additional layer of meaning to the project. The original plan for the performance was to enable the community members themselves to perform. Pandemic restrictions ultimately forced us to take a different approach.
Every detail in Come Don’t Come references a multitude of ideas related to the ‘museumification’ of cities – taking on anthropological, economic, social, cultural and political perspectives, among others. The guard’s costume, banners and LED sign directly reference the exercise of city branding, each in themselves symbolising the costumes and emoticons of museumification and customer satisfaction. The work’s sculptural element takes the form of a contemporary barrier. Throughout the performance, the guard expresses confusion and uncertainty, personifying general feelings of community members, expressed throughout the project’s research, as well as the personal experiences of the artist as a local himself. Passers-by are invited to write down three words that come to mind when thinking of the area and the capital city. This participative element invited audiences to voice their opinion, yet also challenged them to leave their expectations at the ‘gate’.
It is the price you got to pay to pass my gate
To leave your feelings behind
To share and shine
(excerpt from the performance text by Tom van Malderen)