Plurality of meaning in heritage and culture: the Maltese experience

1 July → 31 July 2010
Malta Contemporary Art, Valletta



Plurality of meaning in heritage and culture: the Maltese experience
A collaboration between the Foundation for Architecture and the Arts in Malta and the Mediterranean (FAAMM) and the Malta Contemporary Art Foundation (MCA)A workshop as part of the MCA Public Arts Program and imbedded in the Mediterranean Summer Program – Malta 2010, organised by FAAMMIn his Foreword to “Modern Architecture and the Mediterranean”, Barry Bergdoll observes that the “Waves of Mediterraneanism have lapped at the development of modern architecture since the Enlightenment, reshaping its contours..., discourses, or practices.”The influence of the Mediterranean on our perception and our conscious and subconscious mind has never ceased, whether in modernism, or in post-modernism and it is still as present as ever. This Workshop aims to encourage an organic understanding of the remains of the past in order to project them seamlessly into the Future.The last two centuries have witnessed the evolution of a discourse on the values of the past and on our understanding of its remains, and a relentless quest for the meaning of heritage. Since the eighteenth century, a debate on the subject of heritage conservation has been occupying the forefront of architectural thought together with, indeed almost as a reaction to, the obsession with innovation and experimentation underpinning the spirit of Modernity.Contrasting schools of thought stemming from different cultural backgrounds have for centuries been disputing the most appropriate approach to heritage and have reached a consensus verging on dogma. It is only quite recently that these rules of conservation have begun to disentangle themselves from their assumed universality to wonder into the unexplored territory of cultural relativism.Malta, a tiny rock in the Mediterranean dense with cultural heritage reaching back 5000 years, remained distant from the mainstream flow of ideas guiding and informing the evolution of conservation theory. As it so often did in other disciplines, not least among them Architecture, it married a complex mix of practices and beliefs, some local, others imported, to create its own special brand of restoration that carries meanings that are much less exclusive than those elaborated on the continent.  
Malta can thus serve as a case study of how a specific location and special history can help to understand new ways of conceiving the multifarious meanings of Heritage and our relationship with it.  
This workshop, will be held at Fort Manoel, an eighteenth century military structure on an island in one of Valletta’s harbours. Two artists, Douglas White and Owen Bullet, will, together with the students, explore ways to interact with this heritage site, its current state, its history and undefined future as well as with its projection to the outside; discovering ways to communicate and translate the historic fabric and the ghosts of a “war machine” of the past in the Now.
Since the site is a historic complex which is currently the subject of a restoration program, students will at the same time gain an insight into the practical aspects of an ongoing conservation project whilst discovering new vistas towards the subject through artistic and creative reflection.