The Mill Art, Culture and Crafts Centre, Birkirkara - Malta (2021)
Artists: Samuel Ciantar, Jamie Barbara
Curator: Elyse Tonna
GCF Programme Manager: Raffaella Zammit
part of the Gabriel Caruana Foundation SPRING (v2.1) Artistic Programme for Emerging Artists 2021
The Mill, as a building and particularly as a space, is characterised by several changes through the years. Whilst its core structure has remained intrinsically the same, the walls have bore witness to transitioning uses, processes and communities, seeing progress and adapting to it. Originally a purpose-built pre-industrial building constructed in 1724 for wheat production through wind-powered mechanisms, The Mill was subsequently divided into multiple residences for families, eventually becoming a blacksmith workshop. In 1990, The Mill became an independent artist centre run by Gabriel and Mary Rose Caruana, hosting studio and exhibition spaces. In parallel, from being a prominent structure surrounded by fields the mill has throughout the last century become engulfed by the effects of urbanisation, consumed by severe congestion of traffic and overdevelopment.
Employing past narratives of The Mill as a point of departure, Samuel Ciantar and Jamie Barbara reimagine the spaces within through site-specific works. Samuel and Jamie embarked on an exploration extracting aspects related to both The Mill’s original use as a wind-powered structure and also a studio space of modern artist Gabriel Caruana. Individually and collectively the artists translate quasi-intangible facets related to The Mill overlapping them with contemporary realities through sound, video and installation work. Their unique approaches combine elements of the seen and unseen, using The Mill as a case study to raise awareness on more global issues. By zooming in on in situ micro residues such as polluted dust deposited on window sills and paint splatters on floors, they bridge aspects related to air and sound pollution, the densification of our urban environments and the lack of similar artist-run spaces.
In his work, Samuel projects data related to air quality on a piece of fabric that replicates the actual size of one of the mill’s wind blades. After exposing the fabric on The Mill’s roof for a week, the fabric’s colour is evidence of the pollution afflicting Naxxar Road. Jamie found inspiration in the relics of Gabriel’s artistic practice, splatters of paint dotting the floor of the Victor Pasmore Room. By tracing and translating this chromatic evidence and comparing colour and sound spectra, Jamie creates ethereal sounds and soundscapes. Working together, the artists create a site-specific instrument which extracts vibrations transmitted through the movement of air particles and transforms them into audible notes.
Overall, in transition presents itself as a sensorial experience of the multifaceted aspects of a space which has witnessed significant changes across time.