Valletta 2018
Photo: Naomi Mifsud.

British Council projects at Valletta 2018

The Island is What the Sea Surrounds

March-June 2018, various locations

Curator: Maren Richter

The British Council is supporting two British artists – Turner Prize winner Susan Philipsz and Artes Mundi Prize winner John Akomfra – among the 25 renowned international creatives taking part in this multi-site exhibition around Valletta and across the islands. 

'The Island is what the Sea surrounds' is a quote by philosopher Gilles Deleuze describing desert islands – and the starting point for a project that crosses many media to explore the concept of Malta being surrounded by the sea, and the resulting effect of ‘Islandness’.

Susan Philipsz: War Damaged Musical Instruments (Bells)

Location: Underground spaces under the Law Courts

Underground Valletta is magical and secret city of memories and history. It has been a shelter, an escape, a trade route and a storage space. Scottish artist Susan Philipsz’s sound installation is built a newly discovered cistern underneath the Law Courts in Valletta. It uses a naval bell that was salvaged from the HMS Illustrious when it was decommissioned. The battered bell, which is usually on display at the National War Museum Fort St. Elmo, is a reminder of the impact and force of air raids during the Second World War. 

Susan won the 2010 Turner Prize. She is best known for her sound installations, particularly where she sings her own works, unaccompanied, in a voice that she herself describes as untrained. In this project, she will work with architects including Claude Borg of Restoration Directorate, researchers and students to collect stories of the place which was a site of protection during the Second World War and retell these through music. Recordings will be made in close collaboration with young sound artists such as Yasmin Kuymizakis, who is based in London and Malta, and Maltese artist Rachelle Deguara. Susan will also work with the Malta Underground Society, an initiative by historians who explore, document and preserve underground heritage from Neolithic cave dwellings to disused railway tunnels.

The cistern will be made accessible just for the project. For more information on the exhibition, visit the Tate website.


John Akomfrah: Vertigo Sea (Collaboration with the Malta Maritime Museum)

Location: TBC

John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea, is a three-screen film installation first exhibited at the 56th Venice Biennale. It is a sensual and poetic meditation on man's relationship with the sea and an exploration of its role in the history of migration. The work adds fictional ideas to natural history, archival material, readings from classical sources and newly shot footage from different islands. It focuses on the disorder of the whaling industry and juxtaposes it with scenes of many generations of migrants. It also takes inspiration from Herman Melville’s book Moby-Dick (1851) and Heathcote Williams’ epic poem Whale Nation (1988). 

John is an internationally awarded artist and filmmaker of Ghanaian origin who now lives in London. His works investigate memory, colonialism, temporality and aesthetics and often explore the experience of African diaspora communities. In 2017 Akomfrah won the Artes Mundi, the UK’s biggest prize for international contemporary art.  The artist used the platform to attack the ‘bleak culture of fear and intolerance’ he said was gripping Britain.

With this project, he will be working with the Malta Maritime Museum in Birgu, which presents the history of Malta and tells the story of Malta’s relationship with the sea. John’s work will link the contemporary art exhibition and the museum. 

Artist workshops

With the British Council, both John and Susan will run a series of workshops. 

Susan Philipsz will be joined in her workshops by the University of Malta’s Faculty of Education and Department of Arts, Open Communities and Adults Education, working with Head of Department Professor Raphael Vella. The workshops are for the general public and for students from the University of Malta.

John Akomfrah will be joined by the curator of the Malta Maritime Museum and a researcher on migration and slavery in Malta and the Mediterranean Sea. His workshops will focus on current developments on migration on the region. These workshops are designed for different communities in Malta and are run in collaboration with organisations including ‘Integra Malta – Transforming Knowledge into Action’, which aims to support inclusive, non-discriminating and non-disabling societies.

Details of these workshops will be released shortly. Please follow the British Council Malta Facebook page for updates.

Latitude 36

Dates: July – September 2018 

Latitude 36 is a social engagement project that explores the memories of Maltese people, both in Malta and in community groups located around the world.  

Named for the geographic location of the Maltese islands, the project focuses on collecting personal stories of migration and immigration. These will be developed into a documentary film, a series of performances and an exhibition at Valletta 2018. The project involves established artists and Maltese communities in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Belgium and Mediterranean Basin.  

UK artists Rosana Cade, Foxy and Husk, Nick Cassenbaum and Shi!t Theatre join creative director and curator Charlie Cauchi and other international artists. Latitude 36 invites global audiences to observe individual journeys, linger over shared experiences and join the conversation.  

Leaving Latitude 36: A documentary

Release date: TBC

Directed by Charlie Cauchi, shot by Ali Tollervey, with additional research by Mark Sanko. 

Leaving Latitude 36 will be made up of portraits of individuals of differing ages and backgrounds and in different locations who were interviewed during the Latitude 36 project. Participants share their stories, while text, sound, still images, archival footage and ephemera help build a fuller picture within which to place their experiences. 

The stories will cover themes such as the Maltese experience of the Second World War and the post-war years through to Independence and EU membership. It investigates key reasons for Maltese migration, through stories and experiences shared directly by these migrants. 

The production has engaged a number of organisations, grassroots community groups and individuals. These include the Maltese High Commission (London); Maltese Heritage Association (San Francisco); Maltese Cultural Movement (UK); Maltese American Benevolent Society (Michigan); Malta George Cross Island Association (UK), among others.

Screenings will be held at film festivals and theatres, online, and through outreach via community screenings at locations visited by the production.

Live performances

Dates: July and September

Latitude 36 has commissioned a selection of performance artists to make original works in Malta that reflect the aims of the project overall, exploring the stories and experiences of the Maltese. These artists are critically acclaimed and have to date performed across the world at festivals and venues such as, the Edinburgh Fringe, Barbican, London, La Mama, NY and Warehouse 9, Denmark. 

Artists include: 

• Foxy and Husk is a lip-synch artist working with the Maltese diaspora in London to lip-synch their stories in her celebrated audio-visual show Fox Symphony.

• Award-winning duo Shi!t Theatre, who will create a new show centered on British expats in Malta and how they impact the Maltese community, especially in the wake of Brexit. The performers will have a one-week residency in Malta to engage various community groups using public engagement techniques and their investigative method of performance-making.

• Nick Cassenbaum transposes his own Jewish identity to the Maltese urban landscape, focusing on Malta’s Jewish community. Free walking tours for the general public. 

• Rosana Cade’s international hit, Walking Holding, makes its Maltese debut. The performance involves involves one audience member at a time walking through the city holding hands with a range of different people on a carefully designed route. Participants come from minority groups and are of different ages and backgrounds. A series of workshops will be held with the participants. 


Dates and location: 1-14 July at Blitz, Valletta

This immersive interactive experience will include information collected and created across the whole Latitude 36 project production. The exhibition will include video, new media and interactive design to bring the Maltese emigrant story home to Malta. The installation is being developed in collaboration with UK designer Jo Palmer, who has worked on projects for artists and organisations including Split Britches; Stacey Makishi; Liz Carr; Action Hero; Jo Ban-non; Brian Lobel; and Le Gateau Chocolate.

Visit the Latitude 36 Facebook page for more information.

Brad Birch with Teatru Malta: Football, Citizenship and Identity 

Date: June 2018

Location: TBC

Newly founded theatre company Teatru Malta has commissioned UK playwright and Pinter Prize winner Brad Birch to write a play that will form part their 2018 programme. Birch will work with and mentor a local writer during his residency in Malta. 

The challenge for Brad was to create a script that tackled the themes of football, citizenship and identity. Brad Birch met a number of football enthusiasts, human rights activists and theatre for inspiration. 

This work will premiere at the Maltese National Stadium of Ta Qali, and the plan is for it to be presented at the 2018 World Cup. 

The script will be translated into Maltese by a Maltese translator and published in Maltese and English, and distributed during and post production. The project is part of a long-term plan of Teatru Malta to commission a British writer to write an original script for the theatre every year.  Teatru Malta will be collaborating with Unifaun Theatre, an established production house creating challenging theatre Malta. 


Dates and locations

Free public talk: 18 January at Blitz, Valletta

Exhibition runs from 1 September-14 October at Blitz, Valletta

Transformer is a two-year project presented by Blitz, in collaboration with Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, and culminating in a multi-site exhibition. The project aims to build an international cultural network to support Maltese artists and artistic exchange in general with a series of curatorial and artistic exchanges. It includes curatorial research, artist residencies, a website, public talks, workshops and a multi-site exhibition in spaces across Malta during the 2018 European Capital of Culture year.

The activities involve project partners from Malta, the UK, Spain, Morocco, and Greece. The aim is for the network to help develop Artist Run Organisations (AROs) and the contemporary art context in Malta, making art both more financially viable and more creatively diverse.

Also recommended

Magna Zmein: The Magnificent Memories Machine

June-December 2018

Magna Żmien is a movement to collect and digitise sound and image collections such as records, audio reels, cine 8 film and photography slides that exist in personal and family collections around Malta and Gozo. A team led by Andrew Alamango will work with individuals and communities in four locations including Gozo, Mellieha, Siggiewi and Birgu. 

For more information visit Magna Zmien’s website.

Belt il-Bniedem / City Of Humanity

Dates: First premiere November 2018

The project consists of the production of three new operas – the first ever Maltese opera cycle – exploring Malta under siege. The first opera will explore the Great Siege of 1565; the second, which will premiere in 2019, takes place in the Second World War; and the third, to be released in 2020, imagines a future Malta under siege. 

Music will be composed by Dr Reuben Pace with all other production features – libretto, stage design, photography, videography and logistics – designed by students from secondary schools and the University of Malta.

Students will be mentored by experts including veteran Maltese author, Ġorġ Peresso, Maltese choreographer Diane Portelli, renowned British opera director Michael Moxham, British set designer Nicky Shaw and Spanish conductor Robert Ferrer.

External links