Notarial Archives in Valletta is a treasure house for Malta’s hidden history. With a collection of over 20,000 manuscripts, spanning a period of six centuries, the Archives provide unique insight into public and private life in Malta. So much information is yet to be discovered, whereas some is lost forever. Within the Archives one finds the “crying room”, where documents damaged during the war and through the passage of time are kept.
These distorted and disfigured manuscripts lie in a state of stasis, buried in boxes, out of sight, their reason for being, destroyed. In collaboration with the Notarial Archives Foundation, this photography project looked into the original purpose of these damaged documents and presented a new narrative by creating a dialogue between the photographer, Alex Attard, and the damaged documents. The photographer-in-residence examined absence and presence and conceived and suggested alternative identities, parallel existences, for these forgotten manuscripts through an innovative creative intervention. The project explored what is perceived as ‘lost’ into a new form, changing objects with information that will never be retrieved, into a work of art. Photography as medium is, on this occasion, not only a documentary voice but an active participant alongside history.
The dialogue between heritage and contemporary art was also extended to the Notarial Archives. Alex Attard’s photographic work created in situ at the Archives was exhibited at Valletta Contemporary, a new space for contemporary art within historical vaults in Valletta from the 5th of October 2018 till the 3rd of November 2018.
A 3 day public satellite exhibition, Artists – as – archivists, curated by Katya Micallef was held at the Notarial Archives with the biggest following during Notte Bianca on Saturday 6th October 2018. For the first time, some of these manuscripts were exhibited to the public alongside contemporary artworks by 7 Maltese artists selected by the curator as a response to Alex’s artistic process and intervention. Priority was given to young and emerging artists.
The selected artists were Andrea Zerafa, Glenn Ellul, Giola Cassar, Teresa Sciberras, Sarah Maria Scicluna, Umberto Buttigieg and Sabrina Calleja Jackson. Visitors were also able to engage in the dialogue across two historical venues within the contemporary setting proposed by the project. The project included workshops and talks in both spaces. Alex attard gave group talks to 5 groups of students from MCAST and University, as well as 2 classes from the San Benedettu school (12 year olds). 2 groups tours were also given to the Malta Photographic Society and to the Malta Institute of Professional Photographers. Some of them also visited the Archives.
The project was supported by Arts Council Malta through the Malta Arts Fund, GasanMamo Insurance, Farsons Foundation, ILAB PHOTO LAB, Print & Framing Shop, Ambassade De France À Malte, Notte Bianca Valletta.
Project managed by Culture Venture.