05.10 Malta

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“Spiral – Athlete”
video by Vince Briffa

The contribution from Malta is curated by Vince Briffa –
issued on occasion of the installation at “Groundworks” – 14 October – 11 December 2005 at Regina Gouger Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburg/USA and Biennale of Video & New Media Santiago/Chile 18-28 November 2005  —> featuring Vince Briffa, Austin Camilleri, Pierre Portelli and Mark Mangion


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The Curator:

Vince Briffa

Curatorial statement:

The works of Vince Briffa, Austin Camilleri, Pierre Portelli and Mark Mangion.

In parallel with video art practices, especially over the European continent and specifically in the United Kingdom*, in Malta, during the mid 1990’s there was no clearly identifiable independent video (and to a lesser extent film) culture. It is in the last half of the 1990’s that the first video art pieces were shown in the local art spaces. Ironically, video works by a handful of Maltese artists were many times given their first showing in exhibitions abroad and later ‘re-imported’ back to Malta ’s shores.

The works of Briffa, Camilleri, Portelli and Mangion amongst others are such examples. Having completed their studies abroad they returned to a culture where installation and even more video art practice and exhibitions were a rarity. This phenomenon was mainly due to two factors – cultural and practical – a strong artistic presence of the more traditional media which translated into an initial compelling resistance towards video art practice by the general public and also the scarcity of professional video production equipment in the mid 1990’s mainly due to its prohibitive cost. With the advent of digitality and the explosion of desktop video more recently, the video medium has become more accessible and through such artists’ sustained practice it has steadily gained the recognition it deserves within the Maltese art scene. As manifest by their CV’s, these artists are also very active in their own right internationally, especially in the European scene.

All four artists are also founding members of START – a group of Maltese contemporary artists working in a variety of disciplines (

* John Wyver , introduction to the third ICA biennial of Independent Film and Video, ‘What you see is what you get’, London , ICA , 1995.

1. Vince Briffa
2. Austin Camillieri
3. Pierre Portelli
4. Mark Mangion
Name: Vince Briffa
vince briffa spiral vince briffa spiral vince briffa spiral

artist biography

Title of work: Spiral
1. Athlete
2. Guardian
3. Mock

SPIRAL is a work that centers on the current debate on the posthuman condition and queries the way we are trying to re-design the body through the technologies we ourselves create in constant pursuit of higher physical and mental achievements and better results.

On one level, the work presents an insight into the performance-graph of a sportsperson’s lifecycle and focuses on the relatively short career of the player through the eyes of an ex-athlete, ex-footballer and ex-water polo player. On another level, it queries the multi-tasking capabilities of the human brain when compared to its machine counterpart – the computer. The work, therefore, juxtaposes in parallel fashion advances in current technologies that re-shape the body and brain.

SPIRAL shows video interviews conducted with ex-sportspeople who in some way have left a mark on the Maltese and to a lesser extent, the international sports scene. These people fondly reminisce magical moments that, to them, only sport can offer and recount first-hand experiences some even going back to the first Olympic Games after the Second World War. These interviews are edited in such a way as to emulate a multi-screen computer aesthetic, with multi visual and audio clips.

The visitor will therefore, through this work, become the ‘user’ of the piece and relate simultaneously with a large amount of data on the limited surface of a screen.

name: Austin Camilleri
austin camilleri

artist biography

Title of work:
Lonesome death of Hattie Carrol

short description of work
Lonesome death of Hattie Carroll is a pop title for a three channel video questioning the notion of reality and truth in a Big Brother society. Roles and performances are portrayed as the currency of human interaction. Camilleri presents us a trio of performers from relative anonymity to iconic status.

 The work consists of a young lady putting on makeup, a crying infant and famous tenor Joseph Calleja taking off his stage makeup after an opera performance in Vienna. The three videos are framed in a triptych reminiscent of religious imagery.

As Dr. Regelmann states in his description of the work, “it is a very plain sociological truth that we all play roles in our whole societal life, even in its most private parts. Playing roles for the most people means to cast various more or less distinguished parts during their lifetime, especially people who are permanently faced with challenges tend to develop multiple characters – sorry, I mean personalities. But what are such multiple personalities? If you watch people closely you will find out: They represent patchwork images they got accustomed to like to project on themselves. And as soon as they do so, the question of authenticity emerges.”

name: Pierre Portelli    

pierre portelli  

artist biography

Title of work:
short description of work

On immersion into the murky fluidity of memory, the self induced apnoea initiates the searching shift for sites of memory, which may be contested or retained. The embryonic sites of memory, become a fluid stream of personal and collective experience. A ritual narrative organised within a circumscribed space.

ILMA  Maltese word for ‘water’

name: Mark Mangion

mark mangion

artist biography

Title of work:
video, 2004 (12:31)

short descripsion
In Mark Mangion’s FLYONYOUNGGIRL a camera circles and scans the body of a woman who lies apparently lifeless – tattooed pierced and marked with the evidence of violent encounter. Through a subtle but oppressive soundtrack the film seems to force consideration of a slow process of documenting and examining physical evidence, whilst at the same time highlighting a contrast between a sterile-seeming environment in terms of detail – light and shadow creating an effect that suggests a strong painterly sensibility.