Transforming the spaces we inhabit

Artist Patrick Mifsud is known for site specific works that engage and inspire interaction. Now, his installations will be temporarily gracing various locations around the island as part of the Eastern Region of Culture 2024.
Barrier (tree + sign post)”, pallet wrapping film, 2011, by Patrick Mifsud.

Anyone walking through localities forming part of the Eastern Region in the coming weeks is likely to notice something different.

A series of installations by Maltese artist Patrick Mifsud, currently based in the UK, are being set up in various locations to temporarily transform the natural environment into an alternate reality within reality itself.

Titled Transient Variations, the project was commissioned by the Eastern Region, which has been awarded as the Region of Culture for 2024.

Thanks to this award, the region’s unique cultural heritage will be showcased through a year–long programme of community outreach, events and activities in collaboration with local councils, organisations, artists, and stakeholders.

The extensive program will provide numerous opportunities to actively engage with and appreciate the arts, local culture, and heritage, with this  project aiming to invite viewers to engage with the installations in various ways – whether passing through or observing from a distance. Each passer-by is encouraged to interpret the installations as they see fit, blurring the lines between viewer and participant.

Geometric forms (urban series), wool yarn, 2011.

Mifsud’s practice predominantly deals with site specificity and works with a variety of media both in his installations and sculptures. Whether it is site specific or conceptual his work regularly engages with minimal forms and materials. Defining new spaces within architecture is the primary aim of his current practice.

Using a language derived from minimal art, Mifsud’s work investigates different definitions of space and explores various ways of how viewers interact with it. Through intervening with architecture, his work aims to alter the way viewers experience space. Whether it is a sculpture or an installation, viewers are invited to move around the work and by doing so, their spatial awareness is heightened.

Drawing inspiration from his installation work, Mifsud applies similar aesthetics to his drawings and paintings. His series of drawings and paintings aim to evoke volume through simple linear compositions that deal with two dimensional space, repetition and geometry.

Accumulation, ribbons, 2021

Mifsud’s installations for the Eastern Region of Culture 2024 will extend beyond the visual aesthetics traditionally associated with contemporary art, and incorporate elements such as sound, wind, shadows, and human interaction. Mimicking the colours of the sea and adorned with ribbons emulating the sails of a yacht, they seamlessly integrated with the environment. The works are contextualised thanks to signage that accompanies each installation, and the documentation will serve to observe how people interact with them and their fate over time.

Sunday Circle caught up with the artist to find out more about this project and how the installations are set to define new realities within Malta’s public spaces.

Your installations are recognised for their ability to transform ordinary spaces into something extraordinary. How do you approach the concept of space in your work, and what draws you to focus on the architectural aspects of an environment?

The spaces we inhabit and walk through tend to be the first inspiration for my work. We are informed by the architecture and landscape around us. Vice versa, we also influence the spaces around us by constructing new buildings and altering our landscapes. I am drawn by this concept as most of the time we take the space and mundane objects within architecture around us for granted. My aim with my installations is to work within a space or a site and, by using existing features as anchor points, I create a new work which alters the space temporarily.

In your Transient Variations project, you incorporate elements like sound, wind, shadows, and human interaction. How do these elements contribute to the alternate realities you aim to create within each installation?

These elements are incorporated in my installation naturally. By this I mean that I am not creating these elements but they exist already and will have an impact on my installations as soon as the work goes up. Such elements can only be imagined before the work is created but then become real when the works are installed, and of course add to the dynamics of the work. Human interaction with the works is always fascinating to see. Sometimes, these interactions are expected but at times they are also surprising.

The installations will be located in the Eastern region. How does the region (or choice of locations) influence the project?

I would say that this project was more a choice of sites within the localities that influenced the project. During my preliminary research I visited a number of locations I had frequented many times when I was younger and still based in Malta, to establish sites where I can install the works. From then, I looked out for specific points of interest that offered a starting trajectory for the work to interact with and proposals for installations were then drawn up.

Your work invites viewers to become participants, thereby blurring the lines between the observer and the art itself. Can you share an instance where you witnessed an unexpected or particularly memorable interaction between the public and one of your installations?

Many times viewers come up close with the work due to the nature of it being installed in public spaces. Viewers interact with the work mostly by touching or walking through the work. Some viewers decide to view the work from a distance whilst others playfully interact with the work and the site by walking underneath the work, lying down on the floor to view it from a different perspective etc.

In one instance an installation was completely taken down within a couple of hours, possibly due to the fact that it was blocking a passageway. Of course I was expecting that, but I wanted to test the boundaries of the site on that particular work.

At times the installation itself can make viewers feel uncomfortable to enter the space and it creates a barrier between the viewers and the site. All of these different interactions are very interesting and something that I look forward to seeing when the work is installed.

Intervention with columns (black), pallet wrapping film + columns, 2018

Many of my drawings are inspired by my installations and regularly my installations are inspired through the process of drawing. I find it very interesting how a two dimensional drawing can inspire me to create an immersive three dimensional work. But, at the same time, a work on paper can achieve qualities that are unique and do not always translate well to installations.

Drawing is vital in my practice and I also treat my installations as drawings in space. All my installations tend to be sculptural in form, however since most of them are ephemeral and exist for a short period of time, they take the form of temporary installations.

The documentation of your installations is intended to observe how people interact with them over time. What do you hope to discover through this process, and how might it inform your future projects?

Primarily, the documentation of my installations is solely to document the existence of the work within the site. Unlike a ‘traditional’ sculpture or a painting, once the work is taken down it ceases to exist and it can only live on through the medium of documentation.

At times the photography or film footage of the installations become artwork themselves and are represented at a later stage as artworks (instead of mere documentation). If, during the documentation, the viewer is captured interacting with a work I see that as an added bonus, as hopefully it encompasses the feeling of interaction with the work.

Malta presents a distinctive canvas for contemporary art. How does your Maltese heritage influence your artistic vision, particularly in projects like Transient Variations that engage with public spaces?

What intrigues me most as an artist are the concept of space, boundaries, repetition, geometry, architecture, audience interaction and so forth. So, although my Maltese heritage does not have a major influence on my artistic vision, there must be some subliminal influence coming through my practice. One could say that the process of creating my installations has a ritualistic element to it, which could relate to my heritage. However, I’ll leave that for the viewers to process or come up with these links once they have interacted with the works.

The public is invited to start discovering Patrick Mifsud’s sculptures in various locations  under the Eastern Regional Council  starting April 29.

The Eastern Regional Council harnesses 12 localities including: Birkirkara, Pembroke, Swieqi, Tal-Pieta, Hal Gharghur, Hal Lija, Msida, Ta’Xbiex, San Giljan, L-Iklin and Gzira. For more information about the Eastern Region of Culture 2024 activities and initiatives visit www.regjunlvant.com/region-of-culture/ or facebook.com/kunsillregjonalilvant. To follow projects from Patrick Mifsud visit www.patrickmifsud.com or @patrickmifsud on Instagram.

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