SOAP TO THINK WITH
Published by Valletta Contemporary, Malta.
Critical Essay by Paul Sant Cassia, Ann Dingli and Nikki Petroni.
Prologue by Gabriel Zammit
SOAP TO THINK WITH +
SOAP TO THINK WITH is a solo exhibtion by artist Norbert Francis Attard – a show that will encompass a series of artworks that span two and a half years in the making, and which include a diversity of media and artistic disciplines. Its accompanying catalogue interrogates three driving themes, beginning from a universal and global perspective, threading through spheres of collective thought, and finally inviting individual analysis. In his creation of three pillars of subject-matter, Attard builds work around humanity’s experience of the Covid-19 pandemic; the notion of political and financial corruption in Malta; and the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Each theme is catechised by Attard through works that link with canons of conceptual art, objet trouvé, light art, photography, sculpture, and graphic art. In his selection of subject-matter, Attard builds a retrospective comment around the wider and ongoing question of human ethics – his work grappling with the major traumas and moral dilemmas that have plagued communities both worldwide and locally in Malta. Their commentary addresses events that occured over substantial stretches of time and those that took place in the space of a moment. The SOAP TO THINK WITH catalogue unravels the implications of these themes, unpacking the potenital of the series to mediate audiences’ reckoning with episodes that eternally mark the collective psyche. The catalogue’s essays offer philosophical, analytical, and contextual readings of Attard’s series, which consitutes one of his largest ever collections of work. The catalogue chronicles the series and its themes, delving into the most urgent and lasting events and themes in recent history and working with the series itself as a contemplative edict on how human beings live today. Norbert Francis Attard’s series, SOAP TO THINK WITH, offers a capsule of reflection for Malta and beyond – a longform comment on the way humanity contends with the most complex moral trials of our time.
Gabriel Zammit is a curator, writer and producer living and working in Malta. He has been working on exhibition, film and research projects since 2017 and also holds a position at the Malta Society of Arts. He comes from a philosophy of art background and read for a Master of Arts in art theory with the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, London. Zammit continues to research and publish within the field of philosophy and aesthetics. Exhibition projects include various Arts Council funded exhibitions - Departures (2019) featuring the work of Pawlu Grech; Darkness at Noon (2021) featuring work by Paul Scerri, Gabriel Buttigieg and Charles Balzan; and GROUNDWATERS (2022) a collective exhibition exploring outsider-art perspectives. In 2022 Zammit was commissioned by Spazju Kreattiv, Malta’s national centre for creativity, to curate Sea Sunset Moon, a collective exhibition (Norbert Francis Attard, Sarah Bonaci, Anna Calleja, Glen Calleja, Chelsea Muscat, Paul Scerri, Katie Sims) which looked into solitude during the COVID era. Zammit’s practice is driven by a curiosity in art as an alternative method of meaning-making which is free from the limits of conventional ways of looking at the world. He derives most of his inspiration from literature, particularly mythology and poetry. He seeks to use conceptually driven projects to explore the limits of the human condition and drive change.
PAUL SANT CASSIA
After graduating in Philosophy (First Class) in Malta in 1976, he went to Cambridge, to do an MPhil (Distinction) and a PhD (1981) under Professor Sir Jack Goody. He conducted PhD field research in Cyprus. 1981: elected to a Research Fellowship at Christ’s College (1981-85), 1983: research in Australia for the Commonwealth Government on Migrant and Refugee Youth Unemployment, 1984:: research in Tunisia (property and marriage patterns). 1985: Appointed to a Teaching-Curatorial post at Cambridge. Responsible for the redesign of the Anthropology Displays and Galleries at the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (opened 1990) 1991: First book (with Constantina Bada) “The Making of the Modern Greek Family” (Cambridge University Press, 1992) 1991-2: Moved to the Department of Anthropology ( Durham ) 1992-94: Secondment to Malta to establish the Anthropology Programme and founded the Journal of Mediterranean Studies. 1997: Appointed Reader in Anthropology, University of Durham. 2009: Resigned Durham post to take up a Professorship at the University of Malta. Other field research: southern France (Pezenas) on local elites and “patrimoine” (2005) Other teaching and Visiting Professorships at: Paris X, Nanterre and Aix-Provence. Other publications: jointly edited work (with Thierry Fabre): Between Europe and the Mediterranean. The Challenges and the Fears. (Palgrave, Macmillan, 2007). Monograph: “Bodies of Evidence” (Oxford :Berghahn, 2005), looks at the way the issue of Missing Persons whose bodies were never recovered was framed in Cypriot society. Other published articles and book chapters on banditry, property transmissions and matrimonial strategies, art, psychoanalysis, and ethnomusicology, and Mediterranean anthropology. Editor of the Journal, History and Anthropology (1998-2008)
Ann Dingli is a Maltese art writer based in London with an M.A. in Art History (University of Malta) and an M.A. in Design Writing (University of the Arts, London). Her areas of studies have ranged from art criticism in mid-century Maltese media, to the artistry of Maltese modernist architecture, to evolving mediums of ‘place-writing’. In her early career Ann worked in-house with architectural practices building content around practice knowledge and projects, as well as helping to define and coordinate exhibitions, publications, talks and events. She formed part of the curation team for the exhibition ‘Novelletta’ in 2010, brought to The Building Centre in London by Architecture Project Valletta as part of the London Festival of Architecture. In 2017, she left full-time employment to pursue independent writing, editing, strategy and curation. She now works with practitioners from the globally renowned AIA Gold winning Adjaye Associates and RIBA Stirling Prize winning architects dRMM, to several emerging and established architects, designers, artists, galleries, and charities across Europe. Her content writing has been recognised at industry awards, including the 2021 and 2022 Dezeen Media Awards. In 2019, Ann opened a photography and text-based exhibition titled ‘The Spaces that Connect Us’ at Valletta Contemporary, Malta, with photographer Joanna Demarco, showing content examining the social constructs of an internetless society in rural America. In 2020, she curated ‘Other Places’, a watercolour exhibition by artist Sebastian Tanti Burlò, and in 2022 curated ‘The Archetype Series’, a sculpture exhibition showcasing the work of Norbert Francis Attard. Ann has contributed to several art books, including the recent exhibition catalogues for ‘fuse’, a site-specific art project delivered by the Valletta Cultural Agency, and ‘The Ordinary Lives of Women’, a collective, female-led exhibition at Spazzju Kreattiv. Ann has been writer and editor for Valletta Contemporary since 2018.
Nikki Petroni pursued postgraduate studies in Art History at University College London (UCL). She completed a Ph.D. in Maltese Modern art at the University of Malta in 2019 under the supervision of Prof. Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci. Petroni is a visiting lecturer in Modern and Contemporary art at the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Malta and is the Education and Development Executive at Arts Council Malta. She is part of the curatorial committee of the APS Mdina Cathedral Contemporary Art Biennale and was Coordinator of the Strada Stretta Concept (Valletta Cultural Agency). Petroni is an independent researcher, curator, and editor of several academic essays, books, and exhibition catalogues, including her role as assistant editor for the Malta Pavilion catalogue for the 2022 La Biennale di Venezia. Recent publications include “Altering Alters: Contemporary art at the divine threshold” (part of volume edited by Mark Sagona, 2022), Oliver Friggieri: Bejn Kliem u Linji (co-authored with Terence Portelli. Valletta: Klabb Kotba Maltin, 2022), The Mdina Cathedral Contemporary Art Biennale: Regaining a Paradise Lost – The Role of the Arts (co-edited with Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci. Malta: Horizons, 2020), and “The sketching of line as the search for truth” (introduction to Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci’s Scratches and God, and Some Lines, Malta: Horizons, 2022). In 2023, Petroni will be publishing her first monograph on the politics behind the representation of Dante in twentieth-century Maltese art.