PLEASE DON'T COME
TO MY SHOW,
IT'S SAFER TO
STAY AT HOME
The word 'clausura' means 'enclosure' or 'closure'.
Beyond the entrance of the 'Kunvent tal-Patrijiet Dumnikani', Valletta.
The corridors that lead to the friars' cells. Above the doors is a series of frescoes painted between 1643 and 1670 by a Dominican friar. They were recently discovered after a layer of whitewash was removed.
The frescoes, within the convent, depict several Dominican martyrs. Each painting illustrates the friar alongside the weapon he was tortured and killed with.
Dominican friars spend most of their time in their cell. Cell No.13 was vacant and therefore available for this project to take place.
The cell is divided in two, only one part was utilised for this project.
The furniture within the cell was not moved or removed and served as a means of display for the objects.
Pike-like (Frangisku ta' Cordoba)
Brass and wood
Knife (San Pietru ta' Verona)
Brass and wood
Club (Alessandro Alugo)
Marble, brass and wood
Twin Daggers (Beatu Gilliermu Arnaldi)
Brass and wood
The project entitled ‘Please don’t come to my show, it’s safer to stay at home’ revolves around the notion of self-isolation as a consequence of the pandemic, Covid-19. It attempts to bring forth parallels between individuals that isolate themselves for safety (for themselves and others) and those who choose isolation as means of vocation, in this case, the Friars of the Dominican Order.
The project takes place within the walls of the ‘Kunvent tal-Patrijiet Dumnikani’ in Valletta, infiltrating this intimate space and holding a form of exhibition that nobody ought to experience physically since it occurs in a cloistered convent and for safety relating to the Covid-19 guidelines. What remains from this alleged show, is a photographic documentation of the space and the created objects.
In the convent’s halls is a recently discovered series of frescoes, these were white-washed shortly after their creation (between 1643 and 1670) due to safety precautions taken for the outbreak of the plague epidemic in 1675. Painted by one of the friars, these frescoes depict Dominican martyrs; and as martyrs are usually portrayed, here we see them with their tools of torture and ultimately, demise.
Some of the tools visible within these frescoes were recreated in a manner that could be rendered neutral. Here, an aggressor would not be able to handle such tool without harming oneself (due to the inclusion of spikes located at the handles). Hence, the objects move away from becoming weapons and remain as aesthetic exercises. Apart from the frescoes within the monastery, a painting of Saint Peter of Verona, found on the ceiling of the Basilica of Saint Dominic in Valletta, was also taken as subject.
The four elements are shown in cell No.13 which is used by friars but was vacant at the time. This living space was not altered for the sake of the ‘show’ and the existing furniture serves as accessories and plinths for the work. Just as the frescoes remain safely within the walls of the convent, these objects existed only for the sake of documentation within this even more intimate setting. Nobody was invited for this exhibition, not even the friars.
The Safe Weapons.
An introspection between:
the voluntary and the state imposed isolation.
Text by Rachelle Deguara
The point of departure for the displayed objects, are the torture devices used to quell the life of the Dominican martyrs which are displayed in the frescoes at the Valletta Dominican Friars monastery. Painted between 1643 -1670, the frescoes depict the methods of how the Friars' life were terminated because of the voluntary religious choices that they deliberately choose to follow.
Stay at home measures imposed by the state to prevent the spread of the virus show that individuals are likely to end up in an unpleasant state after a period of social isolation, since humans thrive, and survive, on interaction. Whether one needs to be confined in a room because they have been exposed to the virus or mandatory quarantine after travelling because the jurisdiction requires it, a reduction in physical interactions and activity can affect the mind.
Juxtaposed is the position of the voluntary act that Catholic friars choose at their own will and the position of the state imposed isolation which people have to carry out to be responsible citizens and prevent the spread of the virus. These religious brothers vow to live a chaste, celibate lifestyle. They choose to forego good things such as freedom, self-sufficiency, and marriage in order to pursue the two highest goods: love of God and love of neighbour. On the other hand, people who are obligated to isolate, are doing their part to “flatten the curve”.
Aaron Bezzina’s objects encapsulate the transition between the deliberate and the enforced. The artists' irreconcilable products abridge the different eras with the medium of brass, wood and marble. The diverging realities of the voluntary and the imposed meet in the objects' disableness. Bezzina mirrors the same weapons by which the friars were executed, a sacrificing act done as a result to what they chose to adhere to. The exhibit takes place in one of the cells in which the Friars’ spend their time in the monastery.
Portrayed is the lack of free will in both the Friars which ended up as martyrs because of their religion and the people who are quarantined or under lockdown because of the world wide pandemic. This acquisition of realities in different eras show the dissimilar characters which are related by the lack of choice in both environments because of external circumstances.
The illusion of safety is conveyed with the dysfunctionality of the object on display which is in contrast to the ones portrayed in the frescoes. This is because the object is menacing to both the user and receiver.
Harmful to both, the objects discourage usage and become an unorthodox extension of different realities.
A special thanks to:
Pirjol Patri Michael Camilleri OP who accepted, hosted and supported the project, also for being instrumental in sharing the historical information of the space and frescoes.
Albert Dimech who was crucial in researching and scouting for the ideal venue for this work.
Paola Prinzis, Sefora Mannino and Stephanie Debono for guiding and liaising the work from beginning to end.
Isaac Azzopardi for assisting with the installation and documentation of the work
Rachelle Deguara for writing a text about the project.
Valletta Cultural Agency for the opportunity and support.
This is a Valletta Cultural Agency project part of the InnovAir Artist@Home programme 2020