Valletta Contemporary, Valletta - Malta (2021)

Artist: Matthew Attard
Curator: Elyse Tonna


Supporting Artists: Caesar Attard, Aaron Bezzina, Pierre Portelli, Nanni Balestrini, Francesco Jodice, Matyou Galea

Supported by: Doneo Ltd., Heritage Malta, Agius Marble Works, Galleria Michela Rizzo

curatorial note

Deriving from the phrase: rajt ma rajtx … smajt ma smajtx (I/you saw but I/you did not see … I/you heard but I/you did not hear), the title hints at a code of silence behaviour commonly known as omertà. With a direct reference towards a common oral tradition, it alludes to the complacency or indifference of individuals to act or react to ongoing happenings. Additionally, it is also an invitation to take on a playful or critical approach to interpreting socio-political contexts. The intentional modification to the original phrase makes a direct reference to Matthew’s artistic practice, who is in constant dialogue with an eye-tracker. The latter transforms eye movements to machine-generated data, which is in turn moulded by the artist himself, reinforcing a fictitious technosymbiosis characterisation through a creative practice that links the eye-tracker to modes of contemporary drawing. 

In such eye performances, the use of the eye-tracker, and subsequently the data generated, are evidence that eyes are ultimately involuntarily witnesses of any occurrence. The ultimate underlying notion of the exhibition is that of continuing with the exploration of eye drawing where the eye-tracker becomes the drawing equipment/collaborator, while uncovering notions of witnessing and seeing. Acting as a means of surveillance, the eye-tracker, the entity/the technology, offers undeniable proof of experience.

Throughout the exhibition, the eye-tracker brings to the forefront widespread local realities bound with ongoing complexities related to identity and context. Adopting a tongue and cheek approach, the exhibition features a number of site-specific interventions stemming from eye drawing performances manifested in particular contexts. These range from mundane realities such as going up/down staircases and travelling in traffic to specific occurrences or environments such as the murder of Lassana Cisse and a representation of Is-Siġra tal-Ħajja found within the Hypogeum in Paola, among others. Albeit seemingly disparate, each space presents a restaged context, offering possibilities for questions to be raised. 

Within [the double-height space of the gallery], Id-Dgħajsa tal-Fidili captures the attention of onlookers and immediately sets the tone for the exhibition. Using ship graffiti typically found on churches as a point of departure, this representation presents a multitude of meanings. Whilst the incisions make reference to ex-voto offerings and are a symbol of hope, the term fidili in the name itself signifies faithfulness and loyalty. This duality reflects on the inconsistencies in the way we subject ourselves to everyday contexts and realities, sometimes transposing them to trajectories seemingly beyond our control. 

Rather than taking on a particular stance or view, the exhibition presents itself as a series of experiences from a neutral standpoint, potentially triggering interpretation and debate. Although the issues raised are an ongoing reality, their representation are ultimately an interpretation of data, and moreover a fictitious characterisation of an eye-tracker, hereby reinforcing the presence of multiple viewpoints. 

A number of artists have been invited to contribute with supporting works to reinforce multiple points of view, depending on the contexts they are being asked to present in. The works, both new and existing, are in dialogue with the eye-drawing performances, often challenging or supporting specific narratives.

 

Activate the eye-tracker within.  What do you see?

photos by Elisa von Brockdorff