Artist Raphael Vella is showing a collection of works at Valletta Contemporary until October 28. Drawing inspiration from Susan Sontag’s book Illness as Metaphor, the exhibition is titled That Other Place and is curated by Maren Richter.
Richter writes this about the exhibition: “The ancient Greeks used the word barbarians to categorise ‘the others’, the non-citizens. The concept of ‘The other’ – the ones outside – has been widely reflected upon in Western philosophy, political theories and systems. Psychoanalyst and Dadaists’ friend Jacques Lacan, for example, defines ‘the Other’ as the conventions of social life organised under the category of the law.
“Over the years, artist, educator and researcher Vella has developed a unique and profound artistic language for voices and choices of resistance and a sense of agency and advocacy for ‘the Other’ by making reference to institutions and systems that have become dysfunctional in a dystopian world –in a context in which illness itself no longer holds a form of truth with respect to the subject, as we all experienced it in recent times on a planetary scale.
“His artworks contrast illustrations lifted from historical medical, surgical and other books with imagery or texts related to political ideals and parliamentary models. The drawings, mixed media works and stop motion animations, presented in the exhibition at Valletta Contemporary, juxtapose political, architectural and medical narratives, challenging the idea that institutionalised political systems provide healing to people across a wide spectrum of identities. Crumbling architecture and cartographies or populist slogans meet collective amnesia and other social illnesses, and suggest That Other Place should be recognized as a diverse and dynamic entity – an object of political love and social desire, a model for emulation and identification, an object of care and hospitality.
“Vella opens up a complex debate on representation to indicate a different plot of how we could imagine forms of curing in cultural, institutional and discursive spaces that are disruptive, unruly, intense, incompatible, contradictory or transforming.”