As technology promises to keep us connected, the world of public discourse has shifted online. In Malta, it’s a shared fact that any hot, controversial or taboo subject is bound to summon a barrage of hate, particularly if it’s to do with the existence of minority groups.
Years of desensitisation has brought us to where we are now, an era of cognitive dissonance. One Maltese artist broke his 15-year hiatus to tackle the uncomfortable yet pressing issue.
Curated by Raphael Vella, visual artist Shaun Grech, together with creative collaborators Martin Bonnici and Paul Portelli, explores the space between three politically-fuelled concepts in his latest exhibition: dehumanisation, humiliation and the nation. The result is an intrepid body of work that cuts through the noise to hold up a mirror to where we are now.
Grech’s surreal, scrawly, eerily figured, eponymous portraits hang throughout an exhibition hall in Spazju Kreattiv. Huge, unearthly heads with stick-thin bodies are placed near heinous but real phrases posted by Maltese people on the internet.
In a mix of acrylics, oils and pastels his paintings look rushed, in motion, like a product of insanity, perhaps after spending too much time reading comments hurled at migrants, activists and women.
The exhibition is divided by damning hurls of abuse taken from recent Maltese history: last year’s Black Lives Matter protest and its counter-demonstration, the murder of migrant Lassana Cisse, young pro-choice activists in protest, gay pride and the brutal murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
All sections form a collage of hate, framed by a mix of paintings, sculpture, film and the eerily repeatedly sounds of a heartbeat and choking.
At the furthest corner of the room is the ultimate symbol of Malta in all its irony: a shrine – complete with candles, trinkets, frames and flags. However, a closer look at the neon-glowing structure reveals a menacing message – all the frames are filled with a mix of religious icons and far-right figures, side-by-side.
It begs the question: how can a country that prides itself on religious beliefs justify such hateful attitudes?
No matter where you stand on these issues, one thing is clear: Malta’s deeply-entrenched divides should concern you – because the more desensitised people become to other’s struggles, the harder it will be to bridge the gap.
You can catch Shaun Grech’s exhibition at Spazju Kreattiv until 28th February. For more information, visit www.kreattivita.org.
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