I WILL FOLLOW THE SHIP at the Biennale di Venezia 2024
Maltese artist Matthew Attard shall be representing Malta at the prestigious Biennale di Venezia International Art Exhibition in 2024. Established in 1895, La Biennale di Venezia, a platform for the exhibition of works by international artists, is today acknowledged as one of the most prestigious cultural institutions. The 60th edition of the Art Biennale will open on 20 April until 24 November 2024.
The Sea: Linking Malta and Venice in a common destiny.
Matthew’s art Installation, I WILL FOLLOW THE SHIP, is unique to Malta yet it resonates with many cultures who have a special bond with the sea that surrounds them.
Matthew’s work originates from popular historical images of ex-voto ship graffiti (particularly those located within the historical site of San Pawl Milqi, which speak of ancient local tales of survival, faith, and salvation). These historical and vernacularly drawn graffiti are located on the facades of several wayside chapels on the island. They are ephemeral etchings in stone potentially crafted by seafarers, and their location on places of worship “meant to show gratitude to a Christian deity for being saved from ill fate” (The Malta Ship Graffiti Project, University of Malta/Heritage Malta).
Matthew is working on their legacy in contemporary culture, in a series of drawings called Id-Dgħajjes tal-Fidili. The title refers to their role as vessels of hope and depository of faith. However, the term "fidil" that Attard uses in this context has a multitude of meanings. Deriving from the Latin word "fidelis", it literally means faith or faithful, but in Maltese spoken language, the term "fidil" also denotes someone who foolishly (blindly) trusts everyone, or everything.
A note on the artist
36-year-old Matthew Attard is currently reading for a PhD at the Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh. His interest in the mechanisms of vision - its perceptual, physiological, and cultural dimensions – are the focus of his practice-based PhD research. In 2009, Matthew moved to Venice and collaborated with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the USA Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. He first exhibited his work in a double solo show organised in 2014 at Galleria Michela Rizzo in Venice. Since then, he has exhibited in Venice, Rome, Valletta, Genoa, London, Beijing, and Los Angeles among other cities.
A note on the Curatorial Team
The Curators of I Will Follow the Ship are Sara Dolfi Agostini and Elyse Tonna. Maria Galea and Galleria Michela Rizzo shall oversee the Project Management, while Gonzalo Pastor Teso is the Production Consultant, Vincenzo Casali the Consulting Architect and Joey Borg shall oversee the programming and software development of the project. Alonso Domínguez Sanchez Teruel will be managing the International outreach and programming.
Earlier this year, Arts Council Malta published an international call for the engagement of a curatorial team to curate the Malta Pavilion at the 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia 2024. An evaluation board comprising of leading experts in the sector assessed the proposals received and unanimously decided that I WILL FOLLOW THE SHIP was the best project to represent Malta in Venice.
The Evaluation Board:
The Board members were Perit Adrian Mamo, Artistic Director at the Manoel Theatre; Valletta; Dr Katya Micallef, Curator at MUZA- the Malta Community Art Museum, Valletta and Daniel Azzopardi, Artistic Director at Spazju Kreattiv. The evaluation was chaired by Mary Ann Cauchi, Director Funding & Strategy, Arts Council Malta
The theme for the Biennale Arte 2024, announced by the president of La Biennale di Venezia, Roberto Cicutto, and Adriano Pedrosa, the curator of the 60th International Art Exhibition, is ‘Foreigners Everywhere,’. The exhibition will take place from 20 April to 24 November 2024, and will spotlight artists from diverse backgrounds, especially those who belong to groups that have historically been marginalised.
Pedrosa stated that ‘Foreigners Everywhere’ has a dual meaning: ‘First of all, that wherever you go and wherever you are you will always encounter foreigners—they/we are everywhere. Secondly, that no matter where you find yourself, you are always, truly, and deep down inside, a foreigner’.
After a 17-year absence, Malta returned to the Biennale di Venezia in 2017 and again in 2019 and in 2022. Prior to that, it had participated with a special exhibition of Maltese Artists in 1958 and a National Pavilion in 1999. Both the 2017 Malta Pavilion (Homo Melitensis: An Incomplete Inventory in 19 Chapters), the 2019 Malta Pavilion (Maleth / Haven /Port – Heterotopias of Evocation) and the 2022 Malta Pavilion (Diplomazija Astuta) received international press acclaim, garnering a host of high-profile media accolades and acknowledgements.
Arts Council Malta–under the auspices of the Ministry for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government – is the commissioner of the Malta Pavilion at the Biennale di Venezia.
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