Saturday, 14 April 2012

Independent: A queer body of art
8 April 2012 by Erika Brincat 

Despite some progress in our mentality as a whole, as a nation we undoubtedly still have some prejudices with regards different expressions of sexuality, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. It may have become more socially acceptable to be gay, yet discrimination and occasional abuse aren't unheard of. So an exhibition aimed at breaking down fears and boundaries when it comes to the words 'sexuality' and 'queer' is definitely intriguing and one which deserves our attention

MILKSHAKE is a Multi-Media Artistic Project focused on Gender and the Body to be held at
St James Cavalier writes Erika Brincat

The queer body and the Maltese are the main subjects of MILKSHAKE, a four part, multi-media artistic project focusing on the way the body is seen, shown, flaunted, hidden or concealed. How do we – in this relatively small, traditionally Christian community – relate to same-sex or other unconventional relationships?

Local and international artists, photographers, authors and performers will approach issues of masculinity and femininity by working directly with people from the Maltese community. Artists will collaborate with a number of individuals from the general public and by working collectively, will strive to produce an interactive, multi-disciplinary experience at St James Cavalier's Centre for Creativity in Valletta.

"This project is a celebration of local diversity. It's a celebration of how different one is from everyone else and most importantly a celebration of how the local community in general accepts this sense of individuality," says Gilbert Calleja who has teamed up with the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM), "in order to engage artists, academics and professionals to collaborate and produce a challenging body of work. We are aware that prejudice against LGBT individuals still exists and difficulties are experienced on a daily basis but we are positive that this project – thanks to the work and dedication of all the creative people involved – will help change people's perceptions and open minds further."

"The project presents an exciting opportunity to shed light on lived expressions of genders and sexualities in Malta - expressions which are not necessarily popular or known to many. It will show that our queer bodies challenge normative ideas around gender and sexuality, but will simultaneously embrace queerness as part of Maltese society," says MGRM executive and Visiting Lecturer in Queer Studies at the University of Malta, Ruth Baldacchino.

A number of activities spanning over 12 months will see numerous established artists collaborating with young creatives to engage the general public through a number of new challenging media and formats. Representations of the male and the female bodies and the masculine and the femminine have become intertwined with social, political, economic, religious, ethnic and philosophical movements and ideas. The creative potential within this diversity has led Gilbert Calleja and the Malta Gay Rights Movement to team up and try to bring together artists, academics and professionals to collaborate and produce a challenging body of artworks in a variety of artistic forms, formats and media.

Part I: The Visual Arts –

The Extraordinary Sex

This is a year long collaboration of young and seasoned artists, LGBTI persons, authors and members of the general public. intended to produce an interactive multi media experience at St James Cavalier. The collaborative process will be duly documented in a catalogue.

Activities include one-to-one meetings, a conference, a catalogue, a multi-disciplinary collective show of artworks, and a 'readings' night. Artists will get to meet 'gender ambiguous' (Transexual, transvestite, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or bi-curious etc) persons to learn about their life experiences, share ideas and start collaboration. A pre-exhibition conference for all artists to share their thoughts, reactions and preliminary ideas of work relating to the knowledge acquired in the one-to-one encounters - the outcome of this conference will be included in the catalogue to the exhibition.

A catalogue shall be produced and a fine art show will be held at St James Cavalier. An architect will be purposely commissioned to re-design the exhibition space and help create the right environment for the artist, artwork and audience. The show will take the format of a multi-disciplinary, multi-sensory experience meant to engage the audience and maximise the impact of the works. Artists will present their creative take on their 'experience' of the one-to-one meetings and conference. It is envisaged that a number of disciplines are included and collaborations encouraged. The event will include readings of short-stories, poems and other literary pieces .

The confirmed artists so far are Alexandra Pace, Pierre Portelli, Caesar Attard, Phil Sayers, Robert Zahra, Nadine Noko, Austin Camilleri, Ryan Falzon, Sarah Marie Scicluna, Roxanne Gatt, George Micallef Eynaud, Emanuel Bonnici, Adrian Gauci, Ritty Tacsum and Matthew Attard Navarro.

Authors participating are Mario Azzopardi, Albert Marshall, Simon Bartolo, Glen Calleja, Stanley Borg and Caldon Mercieca.

The Exhibition Curator is Vikas Harish, a former Charles Wallace and French Government Fellowship scholar. He has worked with various NGOs eminently as the consultant for planning for environment education project of the WWF-India and India Canada Environment Facility. He was the Museologist and Co-ordinator for the Picasso: Métamorphoses 1900-1972, an exhibition brought to India by the Embassy of France in India.

Part II: The Weekend Workshop – Genderflux

A two day educational activity for post-secondary students and adults focusing on the perception and representation of gender will be held. The keynote speakers will be Dr Claire Jenkins, University of Sheffield and Ruth Baldacchino, MGRM who will discuss how the choice of sexuality amongst young people affects them and those around them. Participating artists and a line-up of international guests will also be involved. All the activities will be documented and presented in various formats online on:

Part III:The Publication –

The Transgender

A fine art portrait photography book will be created by Gilbert Calleja in collaboration with a number of authors and academics from various fields including anthropology, sociology, philosophy, journalism, literature and the history of art. The main focus of this book will be to provide a rich visual study of gender in Malta starting from the experiences of local transgender persons and their next of kin to the role/s gender plays in the Maltese cultural environments.

Intimate portraits will be established through a lengthy process of consultation and familiarisation with the transgender milieu. It is envisaged that this will help give the book more credibility and a stronger sense of authenticity.

Through this photographic essay the public will get the chance to come close to people who challenge traditional gender types and roles through the way they choose to live and express their sexuality. Essays accompanying this collection of images will help provide the necessary background/s by discussing the context in which this work was carried out. They will also try to provoke the readers into rethinking the general notions of normality, the socially acceptable, the family unit and such traditional institutions. "The main purpose of this book will be to document the situation in Malta," explains Gilbert Calleja.

Gilbert Calleja is an assistant lecturer in the art department at the Junior College of the University of Malta. He has participated in a number of exhibitions including Relocation: Six Emerging artists, A BOV exhibition, Santa Venera, Caochangdi Photospring, a photography festival in Beijing, China, Malta and the European Journey, Rencontres de la Photographie d'Arles, European Photographic identities, Arles & Paris, France, and 'Reportage', a solo documentary photography exhibition at St James Cavalier.

Part IV: The Performance – Narratives

Last but not least themes of sexuality and identity will be addressed through an exploration of narrative in various forms which marks the return of Marta Kwitt after a long break from the local performance scene. Marta Kwitt is made up of Immanuel Mifsud (, Albert Gatt and Daniela Vella Blagojevic.

Visual Artists

Caesar Attard

Matthew Attard Navarro

Emanuel Bonnici

Austin Camilleri

Ryan Falzon

Roxanne Gatt

Adrian Gauci

George Micallef Eynaud


Nadine Noko

Alexandra Pace

Pierre Portelli

Phil Sayers

Sarah Maria Scicluna

Ritty Tacsum

Robert Zahra


Mario Azzopardi

Simon Bartolo

Stanley Borg

Glen Calleja

Albert Marshall

Caldon Mercieca

MILKSHAKE is being supported by the Malta Arts Fund.

Most activities will take place

at St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity (

throughout the year.

The project runs until March 2013.

For further information you can

contact the team directly on:; join their


or find them on Facebook.

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