Malta Pavilion: the interactivity that we like

Malta Pavilion: the interactivity that we like

During my period in Venice, in the days preceding the vernissage of the Biennale, I had the opportunity to meet many artists intent on assembling their works. The room dedicated to the Malta Pavilion, inside the Arsenale, impressed me a lot. The selected artist is Matthew Attard, born in 1987, who arrives in Venice for the first time bringing a significant wave of freshness. The work, entitled I Will Follow The Ship, «incorporates contemporary drawing, historical references and digital technology, offering a distillation of Attard’s latest research on artificial intelligence and digital technology applied to drawing». The curatorial team that supported Attard is among the youngest in the history of the pavilion: Elyse Tonna (b. 1990) and Sara Dolfi Agostini (b. 1983).

Pavilion of MALTA: “I WILL FOLLOW THE SHIP”, 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, photo by: Andrea Avezzù

«The project draws inspiration from Attard’s interest in some historical images of ex-votos created in the form of naval graffiti: vernacular iconographies that evoke ancient local narratives inspired by episodes of faith and salvation in the Mediterranean Sea. These images of boats are engravings on stone, and are found on the facades of chapels located along the streets of Malta, and are believed to have been created by sailors for religious reasons and for the political immunity offered in the past by buildings of worship. These maritime graffiti resonate across many cultures whose relationship with the sea has been – and still is – crucial. Indeed, the boat remains a unifying metaphor for hope and survival today. In an attempt to analyze the relationship between humanity, artificial intelligence and digital technology, the title alludes to the interaction between the English terms ‘I’ (io) and ‘occhio’ (eye), which for Attard symbolize the objective and subjective nature of his work. The title also alludes to the use of the eye-tracker – an instrument equipped with sensors and cameras to record the movement of the eyes – as a medium for drawing, offering a parallel between the tangible history of drawing and the various digital forms of contemporary drawing».

Pavilion of MALTA: “I WILL FOLLOW THE SHIP”, 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, photo by: Andrea Avezzù

The exhibited works therefore undertake multiple relationships with the surrounding environment and people. The totally immersive videos are accompanied by the artist’s “drawings”, reaching the viewer’s hands via a QR code, which if activated allows all of us to interact and model the interactive boat. To find out more, however, we decided to ask the artist some questions.

Sara Papini: How did the idea for the project come about and how long did it take to create it?
Matthew Attard: The idea of ​​the project finds its origins in a series of works that I started in 2021, during a personal exhibition curated by Elyse Tonna, where I was intrigued for the first time by looking at historical maritime graffiti up close, and then reinterpreting them with a contemporary lens. When the Malta Arts Council (commissioner) opened the tender for the pavilion last year, I had been called by Elyse and Maria Galea to develop a proposal. Sara Dolfi was added as co-curator and Michela Rizzo as project manager, proposing the project “I WILL FOLLOW THE SHIP”. Then there was a continuous development process, also including collaborations with the Malta Ship Graffiti Project.

Pavilion of MALTA: “I WILL FOLLOW THE SHIP”, 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, photo by: Andrea Avezzù

What was it like presenting “I Follow The Ship” at the Biennale?
Getting to present the project at the Biennale was an incredible experience for me. Venice is a city that is very close to my heart, given that I have had the opportunity to live there in the past. Coming back was magical.

Any ideas and plans for the future?
To carry out the project for the pavilion I put all the other projects aside for a bit. I want to see what all this experience to which I have dedicated myself will lead, hoping to develop further similar projects soon.


60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia
20/04 – 24/11/2024
Venezia, Arsenale


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