The Malta Independent 24 January 2022, Monday

‘Playing’ with the past at Spazju Kreattiv

Sunday, 28 November 2021, 14:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

Spazju Kreattiv, ŻiguŻajg and Magna Żmien have this year teamed up to invite Italian artist Alex Urso and Maltese sound artist Yasmin Kuymizakis to create an immersive exhibition as part of the annual Spazju Kreattiv programme and the ŻiguŻajg Festival at Spazju Kreattiv. Urso and Kuymizakis took the digital archives of the Maltese archival project Magna Żmien as a point of departure for the creation of the exhibition. Past Continuous features a new set of augmented reality collages, immersive projections and an installation of 900 "paper blocks" inspired by 20th century analogue material in the Magna Żmien collection.

Urso, who previously exhibited in Malta in 2019, has long engaged with archival material in his practice, often creating anachronistic scenes through intricate collage and diorama-making. His practice also engages with non-formal archival material - abandoned artworks or photographs, and employs a quasi-archaeological process of re-creation, verging on resurrection.

Tasked with making it accessible to audiences of all ages, Urso spent an extended period of time researching the archival material and creating work during a residency at Valletta Design Cluster. The work he created from the archive reaches back to childhood memories with an installation of 900 paper cubes, each individually signed and each made from a different image from the archive. The cubes recall both the building blocks of childhood and the pixels of a digital aesthetic and form an installation that invites the viewer's interaction. The accompanying sound piece by Kuymizakis merges children's voices, also taken from the Magna Żmien archive - messages recorded from children living abroad, to be sent home to relatives back in Malta.

Alongside the installation, Urso has placed a series of digital collages, which appear to be silhouettes in reverse; material is erased from Magna Żmien photographs leaving only a white figure behind. Using an augmented reality tool, the viewer can scan the white silhouette to reveal a digital version of the figures that were once in the image. But these images are ephemeral: as soon as the device is moved the image disappears, leaving only an empty silhouette behind.

Accompanying these images are a series of looped film extracts, also taken from Magna Żmien's archive. The extracts show glimpses of past lives - children playing, families waving. Along with a Kuymizakis' sound installation a multisensorial space is created, inviting the viewer into an immersive space of light and colour.

Lastly, Urso has also created four of his signature three-dimensional collages. Small worlds-in-a-box combine elements from the archives; people, landscapes, seascapes, to create fragmentary scenes, within semi-surreal worlds. The viewer is invited to explore these intimate "theatres", which bring together a multiplicity of individual viewpoints within fragments of archival images.

Past Continuous is on at Spazju Kreattiv until Sunday, 5 December. The exhibition is curated by Margerita Pulè.

The exhibition is part of the Spazju Kreattiv Programme 2021/2022 and the ŻiguŻajg International Arts Festival for Children and Young People and was made possible with the support of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura and through Urso's two-week residency at Valletta Design Cluster.

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