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1    Towards a Red Catechism Peter Serracino Inglott

2    The doors are open Aaron Yassin

3    Palestrina and Hell Eckhard Schneider

4    The dialectics of image and reality Richard England

5    Art, Land and Water Kevin Wilson

6    Seeing Red Alison Forrest

7    Cycle Margarita Sanchez Prieto

8    The Last Supper or Why the contemporary cultural Taliban cannot be smokers Paul Sant Cassia

9    Introductory text on some of the works by Norbert Francis Attard Mario Azzopardi

10   Norbert Francis Attard: Top Maltese Art Export Michael J. Mumford

11   Religious yearning for salvation through extremes Stanley Borg

12   Four artistic statements by Norbert Francis Attard Tereza de Arruda

13   The double frustration of painting Adrian Bartolo

14   Four Olympics Stanley Borg

15   The martyrdom of St. Peter Quentin Hughes

16 Tolerancia de la ambigüedad (Tolerance of Ambiguity) Orlando Britto Jinorio

17 The relationship between the architecture and installations of Norbert Francis Attard Richard Carr

18 Norbert Attard’s grandiose view of Preti Emmanuel Fiorentino

19 Five Works by Norbert francis Attard Raphael Vella

20 ORDER = CHAOS, The New Norbert Francis Attard Interviewed by Raphael Vella
Can I say: ….. “Drink in the colour red, then you’II see that it can never be presented by anything else”?
What is the significance
of our inclination to say this?
Red seems to stand there, isolated. Why?
What is the value of this appearance (and of) this inclination of ours?

WITTGENSTEIN, ZETTEL, BLACKWELL, 1967 p.344


Wittgenstein’s questions about red are not rhetorical. Some have sought to answer them indirectly by setting out a
Philosophy of language or of mind in general terms. But I do not know (perhaps because of professional deformation)
of any philosopher who has given even implicitly answers to Wittgenstein’s quadruple query by focussing roundly and
squarely on the chosen example – red. Yet, that is precisely what Norbert Francis Attard does in the ‘’installations’’
recorded in the present book.




Towards a Red Catechism
Peter Serracino Inglott

Wittgenstein asked why does the human race in general have the apparently irresistible tendency ( or should one say
temptation?) to substantivize Red, even to regard it as Aristotle’s original Substance (prote ousia), a quasi-divine entity,
existing of and on its own?

The very title of Attard’s book instantly proclaims, although modestly, in merely autobiographical mode and confes-
sional tone, one possible answer: it is because of Red’s perceived omnipresence. The book title, in fact, only picks up the
name of one installation. Its contents suggest that the reason for Red’s possession of this exclusively Godlike attribute is
its role in the titanic, cosmic struggle between Evolution and Entropy, perceived by Attard with as much ambivalence as
by Pynchon in his novels. What Attard actually showed in the underground garage of an environmentally controversial
tourist complex where the installation was first put up, is a battle of a Homeric, Iliad type, - that is, so equally balanced as
to remain indefinitely unresolved – between two combatants. One is the obstinate but central Fixity of a dead tree trunk,
with once upward soaring – now bare – antler-like branches. It is caught in the way of its opponent: red fabric, running
and criss-crossing, in spirit-and-lifeforce animated streams, looking vaguely like an enlarged illustration of arteries out
of a bio-medical textbook, sweeping round and past the mortified obstacle as it proceeds from an invisible beginning to
an equally invisible end.

So Red is omnipresent like God in the world because of the omnipresence in all earthly things of the inexorable war
waged by the second law of thermodynamics against the life-force. But why is it Red? Wittgenstein says: ‘’ We have a
colour system as we have a number system. Do the systems reside in our nature or in the nature of things? How are we to
put it? Not in the nature of numbers or colours’’ (para. 357). Certainly there are, as Wittgenstein hints, both psychologi-
cal reasons (such as mental associations) and physical reasons (such as considerations of strength in function of place in
the spectrum) that support the identification of Red as the unique, possible filler of the role attributed to It by Attard in
‘’I See Red Everywhere’’, but need one follow Wittgenstein when he asserts that such a claim is not based on the nature
of the colour red at all? Would such a claim imply the reification or deification of Red? I do not think so. The singular
place of red in the spectrum is surely part of its nature.

Attard explores other motives pointing in the direction of the universal presence of Red in other installations. In One
Extreme to Another, a fabric links two living trees, instead of spiralling round a dead one, and it is, this time, white,
Wittgenstein, in Remarks on Colour, which the publishers have placed between red covers (!), argues at length about ‘’
the peculiarity of white’’ in particular as against red, e.g. para.241). The white fabric is, however, smudged with words
in red expressing all the vast range of even opposed associations of red, so that the effect of this collectively produced
coniunctio oppositorium (beloved of Renaissance Neoplatonists) comes to look somewhat like a Beuysian bloodstained
bandage of enormous proportions. A computer keyboard and desk are not only made to float quasi angelically in the
air but are also painted red, as if in expression of their being in the throes of some dematerializing process, defeating
gravity (in both senses of the word) and symbolizing the gathering up of even technology into the collective life-stream.
Here the god-like attribute of omnipresence seems to be enjoyed by Red in virtue of its associability with anything that
anyone believes is endowed with the same sort of peculiar strength which the colour red has in the spectrum. Love is
all there is is a variation on the same theme, using the technique of debanalisation by transscontextualisation; in this
case, rubrification.
A similar technique is inbuilt into the much richer and more fragrant Bed of Roses. This installation seems to be more
lovingly focussed on Bed rather than Red. A bare bedstead is associated with each of seven stages of life but then an
eighth bed, somewhat like the eighth day which the Church Fathers spoke of to indicate the afterlife, is projected above
the rest in mid-air. The roses function here as both a romantic and an ironic version of the red paint on the computer end
desk in One Extreme to Another. St. Therese of Lisieux had spoken of a shower of roses as the metaphor for the graces
from Heaven she would scatter over the earth in her post-mortem exaltation. Attard’s Bed of Roses is therefore a sort
of parody of the Platonic idea of Bed. Red here is the mark of the transcendent strength which uplifts the multiplicity
of sensory objects into the unity of their ideal Form. Once again the role of red in the spectrum is the paradigm. The
irony with which the phrase “Bed of Roses” reeks clearly indicates Attard’s awareness that what he is indulging in is a
language game in which simple, literal meanings do not always prevail and dead metaphors can be induced to spring
into new forms of unexpected life.

In another installation he turns to what looks like an attempt at exploring whether ‘’I can see red anywhere’’ can be a via-
ble alternative to ‘’I See Red Everywhere’’. In A Place Called Paradise, Attard again seems at first to be more concerned
with an idea other than Red, viz.: the relativisation of both terms of ‘’place/paradise”. (Any place can be paradise),
Actually in Part One of the installation, the “place” is dominated by Red’s rival brother among the primary colours, a
Yellow that does not seem altogether pure anywhere. Nowhere is it totally free from a degree of fraternal contamina-
tion, but it cannot help evoking more eloquently than anything else Van Goghian scenery and Sartrian commentary on
the association of yellow with anguish. Red appears marginally, although its usual unequable strength magnetizing
attention, in only two flashes. First, there are in this bare, squalid room, with its broad hints of harlotry, a couple of red
towels, bright patches sticking out of and against the sullen sea of sullied yellow. Towels are cloths for wiping, part of
cleaning and purification; Red, even in small does, assimilates them to veils of Veronica. Secondly, a red liquid circu-
lates between the sink (with a gold tap) and pail beneath as though these hygienic implements were some extraordinary
reliquary for the perpetual re-enactment of an unrecorded martyrdom, like that in which St. January’s blood liquefies in
Naples annually. But in this room one is not tempted to say, as Wittgenstein imagined people always would ‘’red seems
to stand there, isolated’’ unless the word ‘isolated’ was being used as a chemist might to indicate that an element had
been extracted from a compound and could now be examined on its own, but not implying any intrinsic autonomy. In
this room is it not rather because of its inhuman emptiness that the reds resound like liturgical invocations? Is it not by
contrast with the prevailing jaundice – yellow that the reds turn into prophetic signs of some future advent of passion
and grace that will reanimate the room’s stagnant anima?

The imperious although peripheral flashing out of Red, like the bolts of lightning of an abnormally subdued Zeus, out
of the ochre ambiance with its mystifying quality, through its uniformizing the appearances of everything in the room,
first brought to my mind some youthful verses of Mark Rothko: “Paradise is like a lamp in the mist … I see you in a
golden haze.:

Then I thought of Goethe, whose anti-Newtonian account of colour remained the most popular among artists and hu-
manists for more than a century, until Wittgenstein’s appeared. Goethe’s theory was that, because red was a component
of all colours (present everywhere at least in the chromatic world: red is what “augmented”) it was not strictly speaking
“primary,” but could emerge out of either of the irreducible primaries i.e. blue and yellow.

These crypto-scientific views of Goethe’s were partly derived from the traditional alchemic sources that he had studied
in his youth. They alleged that the fusion of all colours did not necessarily result in white, if in luminous form, or in
black if in pigmented form, but always gloriously, in the “supreme and highest red”.

Goethe’s highly implausible displacement of red from its primary status thus only served to enhance its mysterious and
god-like image in the eyes of both faithful disciples and sceptical readers.

Clearly, when Goethe said that red could and should emerge from yellow, he was not talking ordinary natural science,
but rather carrying out a poetic operation of the same kind as Attard “installing” A Place called Paradise. “Red emerges
out of yellow” is almost tantamount to saying that Glory is secreted out of Agony. The affirmation can them be turned
easily into such moral exhortations as per ardua ad astra, or per crucem ad lucem. In Goethe’s theory, Red turns from
a sort of mask of the Deity into a secularised cipher of the crucified God.

Likewise, in Attard’s installation, Red dowers what might have been merely a touching anecdote with a mythical di-
mension, In Part Two of A Place called Paradise, the red towels have multipled into a hundred, they now hang, golden-
pegged, on clotheslines in the open air and, strung out together in this fashion, they convey the impression of some sort
of labyrinth. Perhps that is the most appropriate mythical “place” for Red.

It might be relevant to recall that Attard’s early graphic work, specifically his Walled City Series, seemed to be a search
after topographical essence, an architect’s quest for the genius loci; but he now rather seems to want to tell us that any-
where can be a site for the epiphany (if not the theophany) of Red. Clearly, however, the discourse is parabolic. There
does not even seem to be any physical fact that could serve as a natural basis for a transcendent meaning of Yellow as
Red has in its special strength in the spectrum.

Because of this basis for Red, it is indeed enticing to plunge into even deeper metaphysical waters than Attard intended
when he set up another two-part installation, called: Tu es Petrus, in a former Church dedicated to St. Peter.

In the Temple of Jerusalem, which St. Peter had frequented assiduously, red was the dominant tonality of the curtain
which delimited the Holy of Holies, the space reserved for the Ark containing the tablets inscribed with the ten com-
mandments. Red itself had consequently come in time to signify the hidden presence, fascinans et tremendum, of the
Holy par excellence. The Talmud considers red to signify the vigour and rigour of God’s acts, as opposed to white
(belonging to a different order of ‘colour-words’, as Wittgenstein insisted) which signified rather loving kindness. The
Kabbala recognises the two colours (however different their respective modes of functioning and meaning) as primor-
dial factors in the genesis of the universe. The sense of the Red as denoting the Holy is so deeply ingrained in the Jewish
subconscious than even a non-practitioner like Mark Rothko (from whom I have already quoted a couple of significant
lines) paints such canvasses, undoubtedly evocative of the Temple curtain, as Four Reds (1957). Equally clearly, there
is in such paintings also the influence of such secular masterpieces as Matisse’s L’Atelier Rouge, but even this Red may
not be totally lacking in affinity with the tradition according to which the parokhet signified the interface between finite
and infinite, the flutter and soft whisper of the transcendent, the joyful communication of the divine call to be obeyed.

In Tu es Petrus I, the reams of red fabric that we are already well-acquanited with hold together with their binding
strength two huge megaliths, one old and rough looking, the other modern and polished. The line of their imperfect
conjunction, a shadow-darkened fissure of non-coincidence, the not quite fully satisfactory integration of old and new,
reminds us that the Simon (=hearer) whom the Lord renamed Rock (upon which the Church was to be built) seems not
to have thoroughly overcome his inner divisions anymore than the Church has done down to our day and not to have
achieved the total wholeness of holiness until his martyrdom, as indeed, according to the Gospels, Christ himself had
foretold.
The Red does not feature here surely as a mere colouring of a material binding agent (cloth) but as a supernatural force
in itself, grace which is nothing but the perfection of nature. A Wittgenstein more disposed to use the language of tra-
ditional theology might well have asked at this conjuncture a fifth question: What is the significance of our inclination
to regard red as a natural sacrament?

In Tu es Petre II, a temple-like structure within the Church in place of an altarpiece such as, for instance Caravaggio
painted of the subject for the Cerasi Chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo, in Rome, around 1600-1 holds an almost doll-
like, nude figure of the Prince of the Apostles, apparently crucified upside down (to be like but not quite like the Lord).
It is meshed in the swathes of red fabric that have already been seen wound around dead wood along many other (usu-
ally communicative) functions elsewhere. Here, no doubt, they are binding Peter (painfully) to the destiny he sought
to avoid when young – by imparting to him the divine force singularly embodied in the Red. Far from being negative
its significance is, paradoxically of liberation. Here indeed the appearance of Red occurs with maximum metaphysical
value.

On the contrary, the religious connotations of The Last Supper are as low-key as the rôle of red in this cemetery instal-
lation. A table cloth comes down to earth as carpet. The brownish-yellow dust and soil of the grave-yard site of the
installation is turned by the windblown red fabric into cosmic altar. The whole point of the exercise, however, appears
to be that, next to the glass or chalice of red wine, instead of the expected bread of life, the plate contains the stubs of
innumerable cigarettes. The Red is like a mere Guestmaster of Irony pulling the leg of the Post-Modern Artists who
celebrate the Death of Art (after that of God and of Man) with the failed transubstantiation of the Fag-end. For once the
pungent smell of burnt nicotine seems to undo the flicker of Red.

The tabernacle-like structure wrapped in red in Tu es Petrus harks the mind of anyone familiar with the various stages
of Attard’s artistic itinerary back to the long series of Mihrabs – the pulpit-like structure in Mosques sacred to Quranic
actualisation. But the send-back is even stronger with Beyond Conflict. The title itself rings like an appeal to a wider
ecumenism than was hinted at in Tu Es Petrus. There is a well-proportioned, fairly small scale building which architec-
turally evokes a modest, latter-day classical temple, an icon of the common heritage of all Mediterranean and European
cultures, however much they have been twisted and turned in different directions by sectarian factions spinning off from
the monotheistic religion of the Abrahamic Pact. Against a white-cloud-flecked blue sky, the Red fabric hitches on
harmoniously with the Green (fusion of the other two primary colours, blue and yellow). The simplicity of the theme
is matched by the extremely pleasing visual result obtained here with an almost child-like delight squirting out of the
very aesthetic package.
The Greek paintings of antiquity are known to have used a restricted palette of four colours. As far back as the early fifth
century B.C., these were said by Empedocles and Democritus, to correspond to the four elementary constituents of all
matter. But Red distinguished itself from the start by its refusal to be bound by definition or classification. The ancients
obtained various shades of red pigments and dyes not only from simple earth or clay (containing hydrated oxide of iron)
but also from exotic Eastern biological sources, such as the roots of a rare plant which yielded the intensely brilliant
“madder” reds used, for instance, in the Villas of the Mysteries at Pompey. Thus, from the arché, red began to trespass
across and subvert the scientifically or philosophically established categories.

The use of esoteric variants of red – as in Attard’s Virgin Valley installation, recalling the soft-core Red-light districts
– allows the generation of highly ambiguous play on the sex-spirituality nexus and the evocation of the mauve rather
than magenta sideways and byeways of “love”. In this installation, the pronounced androgyny of the hero in pink
makes him/her a distant relative of Leonardo’s Christ transcending the sexes in the Milanese Last Supper. Is there an
intrinsic link between soft shades of red and heterodox mysticism? So one might ask tongue-in-cheek, aping the most
blatant mannerism of the later Wittgenstein.

Here I think of J.M.W. Turner. On one hand, he attacked in his lectures the painters who used colours in general and
red and rose in particular in crudely emblematic or conventionally symbolic ways, such as his bête noire, Carlo Dolci,
with no trace of compassion. Turner, a Wittgensteinian ante litteram regarding red in this respect, denied even the as-
sociation of colours with musical modes (asserted, e.g., by the admired Poussin) that had resulted in such beliefs as that
a blind man might grasp what red was by hearing a trumpet blast. - Can one understand the nuances of red in Virgin
Valley by listening to twenties jazz? – On the other hand, Turner was ready to associate red with just sunset, as he does
the other two primary colours with other times of day, as though they were the modes of Indian ragas. Is Virgin Valley
the development of Sunset Boulevard in the electronic age and testimony of an intrinsic relationship between the nature
of certain shades of red and certain distinct although indefinite meanings?

In such roundabout ways, Attard arrives at the fourth and deepest of Wittgenstein’s questions: What is the value of that
in the appearance of red which inclines us to treat it as a thing , or rather as a superthing? Attard turns for help with the
answer to the greatest artist in red of all times, generally acknowledged to be Caravaggio. There are surely no other
reds that can excel or equal in strength those of the canopy over the dead Virgin and of her dress in the painting now in
the Louvre. Norbert Attard must have by force of circumstance, however, given more attention to the glowing red of
the Baptist’s mantle on which the executioner heavily steps, in the Beheading of St. John in the Cathedral in Valletta.
(Samuel Beckett himself declared that it inspired him to write Not I ). The brilliantly flaming mantle is obviously not
a realistic element of the Baptist’s garb, as the sheepskin or camelskin beneath him, might on the contrary well have
been. The red mantle is a sort of heraldic emblem. But Caravaggio does not attempt to create in his works any mystique
of Red as Malevic, for instance, sought to do for White. Attard manages in this Installation with uncanny intuition to
capture exactly the two essential traits of what might well be termed Caravaggio’s rubro-theology. On the one hand the
sullied red stuff (which recalls Wittgenstein’s discussion as to whether it made sense to speak of “blackish red”. – “Here,
in this installation, is a sample of it,” so one would have liked to interject into Wittgenstein’s imaginary conversation)
becomes the covering of ritual pillows such as might have been carried ceremonially by the Grandmaster’s pages or
some Roman Cardinal’s altarboys. The pillows support daggers that the Baptist’s executioner, - with his bare right foot
cruelly planted, over and across the prostrate Baptist’s body, on the red mantle, - hold behind his bent back at the very
centre of the large painting, in readiness to administer the coup de grace, the colpo di grazia, the “sroke of grace”, still
needed to totally sever the head from the trunk to which it was still attached by a thin thread of skin at the neck. The
heart of Caravaggio’s red-hot theology is that Grace, the grace of God, comes as violently as the sin it annuls. On the
other hand, it shows itself with an emblematic elegance as opposed to the crudity, brutishness and chaoticity of destruc-
tive violence, but its luminous beauty is nothing but the transfiguration of the same force that emerges in corrupt form
when exercised destructively instead of creatively. The somewhat deflationary treatment of the red stuff in this splendid
installation has enabled Attard to achieve an almost diagrammatic synthesis of Caravaggism with hardly any sacrifice
of complexity or subtlety.

Red may be visible everywhere and anywhere but precisely because it can be seen, it is not God. There is a figurative
point to be made by sometimes personifying it or even superpersonifying it as if it were some kind of demiurge out of
Plato’s Timaeus. Is red therefore a mere “accident” by nature, although it may haunt the cosmos all over? Caravaggio in
fact removes the temptation to substantivize Red by displaying its analogicity. There is a common denominator in all its
appearances: extraordinary force; but there is also diversity of value in each of them from highly positive to abysmally
negative. A series of Caravaggio’s works would have to be looked at to perceive that what binds all the manifestations
of red together is a family likeness. This perception can be obtained much more easily from Norbert Attard’s series of
installations recorded in this book.
The doors are open
Aaron Yassin ( New York, U.SA )

How concrete everything becomes in the world of the spirit when an object, a mere door, can give images of hesitation,
temptation, desire, security, welcome, and respect. If one were to give an account of all of the doors one has closed and
opened, of all the doors one would like to re-open, one would have to tell the story of one’s entire life.

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

I stand starring through the open doors of a 40 foot long shipping container that has been altered by Norbert Attard and
turned into a work of installation art. The bottom of the container is filled with water pumped from the harbor of Kaohsi-
ung, which I see carefully framed through the opening cut from the other end of the container. The water falls endlessly
through this opening, returning to the sea from whence it came.

The doors of the container hinge like the ligament connecting the two halves of a clamshell that conceal a pearl. The
space behind these doors has been made precious like a pearl. As the pearl begins as one grain of sand this container
began as one among hundreds of thousands. The pump, the water, the opening at the rear framing the harbor is the con-
cretion that defines it as a work of art. Lights, which hang from the top in the front and rear, reflect off the water and the
silver interior illuminating the space creating an internal luminescence. This, too, is similar to the way light appears to
glow from the inside of a pearl. But unlike the translucent luster of the pearl Attard, by cutting out the rear section, has
made his container transparent. As a result, I am allowed to see through it and experience the difference that this medi-
ated space presents of the world beyond.

Attard’s open doors, although they are real, are in fact a metaphor. They open to a space that cannot be entered. They
open from the outside, but what is inside behind them is as much what is visible outside before they are open – the sea,
the harbor, the container. There is at once nothing behind these doors but yet everything, simultaneously. The metaphor
is opening, closing, re-opening, passing through, entering, and leaving. The doors are an intermediary, a metaphorical
space in between the here and there, the past and present, the present and future, life and death.

As I look through the open doors out across Kaohsiung harbor at Chichin Island I imagine the early 15th century Chi-
nese commander Zheng He sailing his Ming Dynasty armada of junks from the South China Sea to dominate the Indian
Ocean and bring countless commodities back to the emperor – turmeric, cumin, curry, the finest Indian silks, horses
from Arabia, and giraffes from Africa. I then think of this standard shipping container, this corrugated steel box that
is so symbolic of 21st century global commerce; how many countless miles it has traveled across oceans and seas and
what has been sealed behind its doors, what it has transported from the third world to the west and back again – car
parts, clothes, shoes, televisions, plastic toys of all kinds, radios, all types of packaged goods, and even possibly people
in search of a better life.

The water pumped from the harbor that fills the bottom of Attard’s container falls almost imperceptibly back into the
harbor. The water in the container visually merges with the water beyond making it look as if the container is in the
harbor. It is a magical fusion of reality and illusion, of fact and fiction. By creating a pool of water in the bottom of his
container and merging it with the water of the harbor Attard almost makes his container disappear; it becomes intrinsi-
cally connected to the place where it exists. This, as a result, suggests the possibility of the self merging with the other.
As I stand looking through the doors I experience my self, my conscious being, extend out into the world. My past and
future are condensed into this moment. I may not know exactly where I am going, but I know, one day, I too will fall
back, like the water, into the sea from where I came.




Palestrina and Hell
Opening speech on 28th May 2003 by Eckhard Schneider, director of KUB, Bregenz.


It is a great pleasure to speak to you tonight, because I do have a tremendous respect for the work of Eva Jacob. She
has achieved something exceptional. She has not only discovered this place for art and lifted it, but she has also dem-
onstrated, by the choice of the artists, that it works very well, if you are smart and full of personal commitment to bring
quality, i.e. artistic quality to such places. I do say this with a two-fold respect, because I know from my own long expe-
rience, what it means to realise projects of this calibre. Let me admit as an outsider that, in two ways, both as immigrant
to Vorarlberg and in some way as coming from Bregenz and not from Feldkirch, that I want to encourage those, who
consider from time to time, whether one should support this project or not, to sustain it for the future. That would be
my deepest wish. I am personally glad, that we will work together this coming autumn with the British sculptor Anish
Kapur. We are determined that this is a perfect opportunity to bring this artistic quality together with our own personal
achievements which we both have together. I am looking forward to that.

But now to the exhibition of Attard. It seems that I have the odd duty to refuse you admission to paradise. By this I mean
that I must express everything with a different approach as I am in a situation where I am talking about something that
you have not yet seen and therefore have to imagine in some way. First of all, I assume that you know this historic place.
You know this wonderful church with its peculiar long depth of the apse, with the excavation, which lies like an exposed
wound in the nave and this small entrée, which – like a balcony – opens the view to the room of the church. You know
at the same time, that you have the altar in the focus in the axis in the depth of the room and you remember the two side-
altars, left and right. That’s the basic condition. Not a simple task for an artist, because when – and he [Attard] confirms
this – an artist deals with this kind of place, he then has of course to respect the specific, historic and architectural situ-
ation of the location. I do believe, as you will see later, that Attard has done exactly this. Who, on the other hand, as an
artist, does not do so, has actually lost already.

One not only realises that – as I just heard him mention – the fact that he visited this place on five separate occasions in
the last three years, thus he really dealt with this location, but also because certain realisations and changes took place
during the process of time, particularly with the curious field of graves, which exist there as historic wound, with this
huge depth, this perspective, and with this peculiar ceiling fresco of the Holy Baptist who performs the baptism. And
with the keyword baptism, the next aspect is brought up. Attard succeeds in the church with a sharp concept, i.e. a water
layer, to synthesise the church therewith to a new dimension. On the one hand he succeeds with this huge water layer
in separating the upper zone and the lower zone from each other. This means that you see reflected in this water layer
everything that is above water level. And under this water layer you look onto this excavation, dramatically illuminated
with blue light quasi like a visualisation of the drama of death. One has of course to ask, what is the special achievement
of Attard in the way he shaped this existing space. I believe that he succeeded to link the spiritual meaning of this place
- even if it is always present as church on a daily basis – with an opus which has a precise concept which is brought to
the point. This conceptual opus explains itself a little bit through his biography. Attard, born 1951, has worked almost
20 years as an architect. You will see that he, with the greatest comprehension, positioned this cross-sectioned layer
like a sharp cut into the architecture of the building. He designs this shallow basin of water so that it works like a mir-
ror, so you don’t get the impression that there is any three dimensional depth and by putting the whole construction on
stilts, establishing a completely clear simple construction. Hence, there is an abstract quality to this work and possibly
a double meaning as well.

And then there happens another thing which is remarkable. I said already that the special thing about this church is that
one is moved in terms of scale of the space. When you enter the room the feeling of distance is increased due to the
difference in floor levels. It is not possible to walk through this excavation but the awaiting promise of the altar image
and the apse is within a certain distance, moved into the depth of the room. With the mirror surface, which is directly
arranged over the excavation, Attard drags the entire depth of the room towards the front onto the flat mirror surface.
You stand axial in this room and you have the flanks of the apses with the two altars and the main central altar, specially
illuminated again [by Attard] to emphasise the depth of the room. You stand in this room and you have the entire instal-
lation in front of you. For a modern observer, this is a remarkable position for viewing this work. It is rather, the one-di-
mensional point of view as we know it from the mediaeval picture, i.e. the frontal confrontation with that what is taking
place as the program of the picture, as narration, as metaphor, as symbol, as promise, quasi on the transformed level, for
example of the painting. Basically this is a little bit the point of view which he [Attard] discloses for the observer. But
one has also to be aware of other things.

The remarkable thing is, that beside this flat standpoint of the axial center of almost being insular and standing in front
of and looking at it, you are also simultaneously looking at something else. You are concurrently seeing two levels at the
same time. Seeing above the water everything looks like the promise of heaven with the baptism-scene on the ceiling
picture and reflected in the water, mirrored, the reality and the reflection doubles in a promising way what you see – in
total silence and calmness at first. And you see at the same time, and that it is very contemporary, because simultaneous
vision is what the modern picture program of the 20th century actually established as paradigm shift to see the world
with new eyes. This simultaneity, this multiple-perspectivity. You see simultaneously the lower zone, representing the
death if you want, additionally dramatised by Attard in the way, that he positioned the skeletons within the space of the
excavation and hence – I don’t want to exaggerate, because in that case the effect possibly sounds too dramatic, even
though, I have to admit, it actually is very dramatic – below the water level is this mystery that is menacing, a threat, a
feeling of injury, warning danger – I do have to say it - quasi the hell represented. Now one has to ask, what function
is fulfilled by this opus in the church. Beside the fact, that he [Attard] succeeded in a very precise manner, to unifiy his
work in space and time – and the picture program of this baptism into this entire work one could perceive this water layer
in a very special way. Yes, I spoke yesterday with him, and he supposes the thesis that there is a sort of duality. He says
that the water layer segregates, and at the same time, fuses the upper and lower zones, the two chambers of ‘’existence’’.
Water is such an element that separates and unites as an element of nature. It’s an abstract layer that is introduced.

I want to expand on this idea further. I rather believe that it is a threefold concern. I think, and there I see the special
achievement of his opus, that this work represents a very particular attribute of a work of art in general. If you want, it
is the aim to re-establish spirituality in the room by having the layer of the opus itself clearly expressing that a work of
art is capable of transforming pure matter, pure material into a spiritual, mental or intellectual state. In other words, that
everything that initially is only stone, soil, light, wood, painted surfaces, etc., is more than mere materiality, physical-
ness, but can have a certain meaning, which comes true to the observer by contemplating his own existence, vis-a-vis
the reflection of the room, the reflection of the history of the room within this ensemble and in the reflection – mentally
viewed – of his own existence. And thus, one should complement the idea of duality with the three-dimensional ap-
proach, because only through these links, I consider this an interesting idea relating to the position, which works of art
can adopt at all: That works of art, if I can formulate it very generically, basically can be like links for what happens
between the spirit and the real world in a transformation which not only refers to material things, but rather on a spiritual
and mental level.

I knew it would be difficult to talk about things, which haven’t yet been seen. I want to cut short this introduction but first
I still have to point out one more important thing, otherwise I would leave out an essential aspect of this work. You are
going to experience something very remarkable. When you are in the room you will hear something, because there is the
sound of electronic music. And you will in addition experience, that this sound not only establishes a spatial depth – that
is the beautiful thing about music, that it creates in the abstraction a spatial depth – but that it has created a real depth,
a real space, because technically, within the expanse of the flat water surface – now I have to disclose the secret – there
are speakers (sub-woofers) installed underneath the water surface so that the sound waves affect the water by moving
the water surface and the reflection or mirror image is broken in a way which is adjusted to the timbre and rhythm of
the music. If you want, virtually an interference and disruption, a decomposition of the very same unity which I tried to
characterise previously.

Insofar, I have to pay a huge compliment not only to Eva Jacob of course, but most notably and particularly to Mr. At-
tard. It was worthwhile. [Addressing Mr. Attard] It was really a good idea to come here, to install your work. I think it
is really a fantastic work. And it is a new level again for the work here in the church for the future. Thank you so much
– and a nice evening.

Translation by Florian Kinast.




The dialectics of image and reality
Richard England


       “...I’ll tell you all my ideas about Looking Glass House. First there’s the room you can see through the glass
–   that’s just the same as our drawing room, only the things go the other way.”

                                  �
Through The Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll


Norbert Francis Attard’s recent venture into the world of installations has provided him with a platform to further
reveal his intellectual inquisitiveness and artistic inventiveness. His February, 2003 creation for the group exhibition
“BORDERS” held within the Pinto Stores on the Grand Harbour shore-line in the vicinity of Valletta, the capital city
of his native Island, presents itself as a particularly potent and revealing piece. Attard’s construction also incorporates
the aural overlays of a voice-over reading of Mario Azzopardi’s sensitive verses“Salina’s Lament”, evoking a woman’s
misery at the loss of her loved one as a victim of violence and injustice; together with an ambiguous electronic sound-
track derived and produced by Ian Boddy. Interpreting the poet’s reading of Salina’s pain as ‘internal’ and violence as
‘external’, Attard has created an installation based on the very dialectics of this ‘inside-outside’ theme, and in the process
he has managed to take this concept of spatial-change to higher-levelled evocations and interpretations. To further ex-
tend this threshold-crossing topic, Attard utilizes water to create even more complex dialectics between the illusionary
image-world of reflection and the reality of the exhibit itself.

A dormant sheet of water, some four metres square, is enclosed within a skeletal timber cage-frame built from the
scatalogical remnants of a series of abandoned door-frames found within the Stores’ long neglected cavernous interiors,
reminding us that Attard is always particularly concerned that his installations are site-specific pieces, strongly related to
the environment within which they are created. It is therefore particularly apt that this work is sited within the spaces of
these buildings erected by the Order of the Knights of Malta within the massive masonry bastion works built to defend
the Islands against sea-borne invaders. After the completion of these peripheral defensive-curtains to protect the new
grid-iron city of Valletta and its immediate environs, the Order, some one hundred and fifty years later, began to com-
prehend that the meaning of the islands’ surrounding sea had in time changed, and that the once turbulent waters of these
strategic Islands were no longer the carriers of menacing enemies, but were now perched to provide, in relatively more
peaceful times, a vital economic centre-point on a successful commercial Middle Sea trade-route. Essentially, therefore,
these buildings erected during the reign of Grandmaster Pinto, owe their origin to a process of mutation; a change in the
meaning and understanding of their surrounding waters. Hence it is appropriate that within their lofty interiors Attard
has created a scenario of constant metamorphosis of inversion and duality based on the ever-changing mesmeric mirror
effects of the reflective surface of water. On viewing the lazy, low, long-spun masonry arches in their mirrored water
images, one is immediately made aware of the illusory penetrative substratums of Attard’s suspended wafer-thin water
surface. In the process the observer experiences the uncovering of a poetic space as the water sheet breaks its own
borders to reverse reality in such a way that viewer and viewed become interchangeable in an internal-external play of
spectral images which, though clearly visible, remain intangible to our other senses.

Water and reflected mirror images with their complex aspects of ambiguity, illusion, reversibility and interchangeability
have fascinated thinkers, writers, poets and artists from every era. Ever since Ovid’s Metamorphoses with its rewriting
of the original Pausania myth of Narcissus (Ovid was the first to introduce Echo into the story) numerous authors have
been captivated by and re-recounted this tale or written about its mysterious aspects of binary images and dyadic reflec-
tions. Plato, Virgil, Dante, La Fontaine, Rabelais, de Cervantes, Cocteau, Borges, Calvino, Eco (in “More on Mirrors”
and “Kant and the Platypus”) and, of course, Carroll, among many others, have all contributed to the rich literary anthol-
ogy which relates to the mysterious intermix of the objective and subjective world in terms of the mirror and its image.
Attard, in this work, also succeeds in infusing and intermixing the objective and subjective, while also revelling in the
phenomena of interchangeability, he derails the observer and makes him lose grip in understanding which of the work’s
images constitute reality and which belong to the unreal. The artist, in creating this dichotomy between real and re-
flected evokes Giorgio Caproni’s sense of mystery in this poet’s characteristic verses of displacement and disturbance;

Non sei mai dove sai”

Apart from such momentous indepth studies of the mirror and its reflection as those by Jacques Lacan and Jurgis Baltru-
saitis, in 20th Century literature it was Borges more than others and Calvino who frequently evoked these fusions and
interchanges; the former not only in his tales of libraries of unreadable books; his confrontation and intermix of real and
bogus authors; and his intermingling of historic and invented events; but more so in his life-long preoccupation to what
he referred to as the “silent theatre” of the “haunting sleepless mirror”. It was, in fact Borges, with this incessant fear of
the multiplication of images, due to his considering all reflections as a form of actual reality with an ever-present unnerv-
ing possibility of their coming to life, who pushed this specular theme to its ultimate limit. Calvino, on the other hand,
also utilized intermix and interchangeability in many of his novels with specific reference to mirror imagery in Invisible
Cities. His City of Valdrada, is “built on the shores of a lake, the traveller, arriving, sees two cities: one erect above the
lake and the other reflected, upside down. Nothing exists or happens in the one Valdrada that the other Valdrada does
not repeat, because the city was so constructed that its every point would be reflected in its mirror and the Valdrada down
in the water contains not only all the flutings and juttings of the facades that rise above the lake, but also the rooms’ in-
teriors with ceilings and floors, the perspective of the halls, the mirrors of the wardrobes.” All this imagery seems also
to apply to Attard’s installation, for in his creation, as in Calvino’s dream town, “the mirror at times increases a thing’s
value”, while “at times denies it”. In Attard’s work it is evident that the mirror water-surface not only reflects but, in the
process, also transfigures. In the visual arts, apart from architects from all times, who constantly have utilized reflective
water surfaces to enhance the magic of their buildings, many great artists have in their works drawn inspiration from this
theme. In the whole history of painting from the artists of the 1st Century frescos of Pompeii to Van Eyck, Caravaggio,
Velasquez, Poussin, Lorrain, Degas, Magritte, Dalì and Bacon, we find recurrent references to themes relating to both
the Narcissus myth itself and also the Mirror Image conundrum of reversed reflections.

The mirrored water surface provides, above all, a form of mystical threshold or entrance to what may be termed a re-
versible, parallel and visible yet intangible world. In these reflections we are, where we are not, in a quiet yet unquiet
world. It is interesting to consider why vertical mirror-surfaces reverse images from left to right, while horizontal ones
reverse images vertically. Because the world is full of horizontal symmetries we are more at home with the former and
hence they are more easily recognizable. Despite the fact that man, in his long process of evolution and contact with
water, has been subjected to more horizontal reflected images, he has become more accustomed to vertical mirrors and
still remains less at ease in front of horizontal ones. Our brain has learnt to deal with vertical mirror surfaces as if they
actually produce a faithful image of what is in front of them. The relationship between perception and judgement is
such that the upside down retina image (actually so) is reversed back by the brain. Thus we use the reflection correctly
but speak of it as if it does what in fact we make it do. On the other hand, vertical symmetries still continue to perturb
us; probably as a result of our species’ early contact with the vertical symmetry of water as nature’s mirror, which must
have provided a more than disturbing experience for primitive man finding himself not only facing his own reversed
image but also pitched against the endless vastness of the sky.

In viewing Attard’s art-piece, just as we become accustomed to the contemplative quietness of what appears as an inky
endless abyss, rising riplets of concentric circles caused through Boddy’s unheard sound vibrations (produced from a
bi-aural parallel channel to that providing audible ambient sound) unmask the fragile reality of the reflective surface to
provide enigmatic overtones of disturbance and disquiet. The combination of sound and mirror images in the installa-
tion is the perfect evocation of the classic Narcissus-Echo myth, as the spectator finds himself perched on an ever oscil-
lating threshold of comings and goings of not only the spatial experience of image and reality, but also its aural equiva-
lent of intermittent sound and silence. In the process, one begins to question one’s own demarcational limit of not only
‘hereness’ and ‘thereness’ and ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, but also whether these spatial and aural realities are on this side or
the other. Through the experience of Attard’s work we are made to transcend many levels of borders and boundaries,
and in the process, we also get a glimpse of the illusions behind illusion. Azzopardi’s poem evokes a “pool of remem-
brance” and this is exactly what Attard has in fact created; an at times tranquil shadow world, which Boddy’s sub-sonic
sounds periodically decomposes into elements of agitated waters referred to by the poet as “broken images”. In these
interchanges of clarity and opacity one is constantly crossing over from a world of trancelike dream to one of visual
intoxication. This chimeric relationship between opacity and clarity and the balancing act of these opposites creates,
after much hesitation, temptation and curiosity; an almost inhibitive desire of wanting to enter and inhabit that space.
Perhaps, like Alice, we should take the step and cross-over into the looking glass! There is no doubt that this is a power-
ful work that questions the dialectics of image and reality; a work that must be experienced in all of its poetic intensity.
This installation, perhaps best read as a cloning of reality, provides a platform for the combination and interchange of
an ambivalent and ambiguous internal-external world where reflection becomes reality and reality becomes reflection.
Like Borges’ Villa Triste-Le-Roy, Attard’s piece with its reflective imagery becomes not only a multiplication of itself
but an almost infinite labyrinth of duplicated space. In a way, therefore, Attard has created not only an artwork but also
its own reflection and echo. As such, it must be seen to be a work of the dream world; but this should not surprise us,
for in an artist’s life, all waking is a dream.


“... The journey needless;
That from there, looking back across the laboring waters
Arrival mirroring the setting-forth -
This is the Other Shore?”

P.L. Travers




Art, Land and Water:
A Maltese artist’s journey into the landscape of Australia
Kevin Wilson

First appeared in The Sunday Times, Malta, 24 November 2002.


What could be best described as an art experiment in nature took place in Australia this past December.
The poetically titled The Floating Land or the more literally sub-titled international site-specific Art Laboratory in
Noosa, Queensland, and Sticks and Stones at Woodford, Queensland, were events that displayed a possible future for
contemporary art practice and presentation in Australia.

The Floating Land brought together 19 artists (2 local, 10 Australian, and 7 international artists) who created artworks
in, on or over a diverse range of waterways, over a two week period. Like all experiments it tested various models in
new contexts whilst dealing with the clash of older language and interpretative systems overlaid on the desire for new
systems.

The event was not simply about artists going about making a product in a somewhat unusual medium. It was also about
those artists living more visibly in the community - living in people’s houses, eating with different community members
each night, and talking with a multitude of visitors as they were making and finally presenting their work. It was a labo-
ratory not simply for making art but also for developing social relations.

When developing The Floating Land, inspiration came from Europe in the form of a couple of recent manifestations of
the outdoor art symposium. The sculpture symposium is an event that has taken place in summer on a regular basis in
Europe since well before the recent fall of communism. A wide range of events now take place that have evolved from
a bunch of sculptors making works out of stone, into multi-media events.

Essentially the event was conducted with an infectious passion that was as much about revelling in the natural landscape
as it was about allowing art to have a greater impact on people’s daily lives. In many ways the works created were
poetical political statements about our future. From Noosa many of the artists then moved onto another location in the
mountains west of Noosa to participate in an annual Art and Music and environment festival. One of these artists was
Norbert Attard, a well-known Maltese contemporary artist.

In Noosa Attard chose as a site for his work Balance, the Noosa River, a place where the raw river and quiet suburbia
meet. The Noosa River, once the lifeblood of a pioneer timber industry, and now, part of a tourist Mecca (Noosa Heads
in Queensland, Australia), quietly disperses throughout a burgeoning suburban community as it nears the sea. Signs of a
casual life are everywhere - jettys, footbridges, and of course the small boats anchored quietly awaiting the next outing.
And yet despite this seemingly tamed image the river still maintains a roughness, an originality and a pristine quality.

 How do you deal with the powerful image of nature in such a ‘settled’ context? Balance is in effect another one of
those boats quietly inhabiting the river. It is a meditative work and yet one which sparkles like a gem. At once it is an
everyday object and yet a magical metaphor. It is a regular boat to make short trips and yet a boat that speaks about
thousands and even millions of journeys.

Attard’s totally reflective boat covered with mirrored perspex, with a clear base and filled with small tree branches,
forces us to think about the ‘big picture’ - nature/civilization; entropy/sustainability, and even art and real life. Just as
a boat will literally sink if it is not in balance so will life as we know it, if we cannot find harmony between the human
and natural world.

Aesthetically Attard’s practice is formalist. Balance is the key. The strength of his vision lies in anchoring his sculptures
to a ground. In ‘Balance’ he literally anchors his boat, but more importantly the anchoring is achieved by eliminating
the lines or edges of the object and its ground. The boat becomes the water or is composed of the water. At times it
simply dissolves.

Balance is successful because it works on so many levels and has the rare ability to capture the viewer’s imagination. It
encompasses anything from the idea of a magical boat in children’s literature to the science fiction of ‘Robocop’. This
was certainly evident from the huge variety of age groups evident in the people often found admiring and contemplating
the work from an old footbridge above the work.

Balance not only benefits from the boat as a metaphor for the journey but also from the boat as a carrier of meaning. In
this case the boat carries an environmental load. The precious cargo is now the environment as well as humanity.

At the Woodford Folk Festival, Attard moved on to examine in his work the volcanic mountains of the region and again
revealed so much more about our place in nature. His work Glass House Mountains forces the viewer to explore a
range of contexts - the immediate site in which a work is placed, a relationship to a broader based geography and even
a national context.Interestingly it does this by creating a vessel shape, an obvious reference to eruption. This is further
heightened by the radiating bamboo poles that emphasize the outward movement of the original lava flows. Attard also
reinforces the volcanic reference by placing locally found lava stones in the centre of the work.

So whilst the work is located on a seemingly innocuous slope of the festival site, and a site it shared with other sculp-
tural works, it draws the energy of the earth on which it stands and radiates it back out to the mountains in the distance.
The work then acts as a kind of powerful conductor. In this way it also reminds one of a satellite dish, drawing in the
vast field of outer space, connecting various sites. In an Australian context the satellite dish in the bush is an enduring
symbol of the vastness of this continent and the need for connectivity.

Likewise festivals such as Woodford are also about connectivity, and the celebration of the land. Attard’s Glasshouse
Mountains in its sheer completeness, its inclusivity, is also a symbol of the Festival itself. The work could also be com-
pared to a piece of a children’s playground equipment. Whilst the element of fun relates perfectly well to a festival it
also reinforces the openness, giving and purity of childhood that Attard’s sculptural gesture makes to the land and Aus-
tralia. Attard’s work conjures a formal power with a lightness of being. It is extraordinarily sophisticated and complete
and yet simple and open. It is anchored locally but speaks universally.

The four weeks Attard spent in Australia generated two powerful works that were made entirely as site specific works
after an intensive encounter with the Australian landscape. This was a remarkable achievement which not only recog-
nizes the artist’s own creative powers but also the inspiration of nature.




Seeing Red
Alison Forrest

Article appeared in Prospect magazine, Glasgow, Scotland, November/December 2002, Issue 88.

Installation artist Norbert Francis Attard has been described by his friend Richard Demarco as a ‘’Renaissance man’’.
While the 51-year-old would find it unbearably pretentious to describe himself in those terms, it is not difficult to see
where Demarco is coming from. Maltese-born Attard lives on the island of Gozo in a studio that he designed himself.
He practiced architecture in Malta for over 20 years, but chose to leave the constraints of architecture behind for more
liberating forms of creative expression. He went on to gain a reputation as a successful artist, producing graphic art,
paintings and sculptures, but found himself questioning his direction. ‘’I thought abstract painting was a limitless form
of expression, but I found that you are easily led into a cul-de-sac, developing and repeating your own style, he said. ‘’A
lot of artists are comfortable with that but I arrive at points in my life where I have to look at what I am doing.

Most recently, his self-analysis set him on a new course, and he is now an internationally recognized installation artist.
By making this switch, Attard has once again engaged with the constraints of architectural space, using it and respond-
ing to it in a quest for meaning, which he explores through his creative ideas. Attard is a warm and likeable man. Physi-
cally, he bears an uncanny resemblance to the comedian Alexi Sayle, but this is where the similarity ends. He is serious
about his art, and works hard to ensure that it is appreciated by as many people as possible. He is also a patron of the
arts, and invites artists of all disciplines to take up residencies at his GOZO contemporary studios.

Attard’s installations have taken him all over the world, but the ties that bind him to Scotland are particularly strong. In
1999, Attard met Richard Demarco in Malta. He was immediately impressed by Scotland’s artistic impresario and vis-
ited the Demarco European Art Foundation in Edinburgh three months later. Since then, Attard has been in close contact
with Demarco and has created two installations in Scotland. The first was situated in St. Andrews, where he worked with
the pupils of St. Leonard’s School to create ‘’One Extreme to Another’’: 120 metres of white fabric, a table, a chair, a
computer keyboard and graffiti sprayed in red. The second, ‘’Love is all there is’’, explored the meaning of the colour
red in an installation in Edinburgh’s Apex Hotel. Using red writing on back-lit transparent sheeting.

In the New Year he returns to the Apex Hotel for the launch of I See Red Everywhere, a book documenting twelve of his
most recent works, with contributions from Neil Cameron, Diane Sykes, Richard Carr and Demarco.

According to Attard, in his work, both as an installation artist and as an architect, the site is of paramount importance.
‘’When you are working with a site you are talking about two things – past and present,’’ he explained. ‘’The site is
talking about the past and the intervention is talking about the present’’.Attard illustrates this point referring to his most
recent installation, ‘’Beyond Conflict’, which he created for the 2002 Liverpool Biennial. Using the columns of an ora-
tory in the grounds of Liverpool’s towering Anglican Cathedral, Attard wove red and green fabric to stricking effect,
giving expression to the present conflict between Christianity and Islam.

Like most of his work, ‘’Beyond Conflict’’ was created and destroyed within a matter of days, but he is able to recon-
cile this with the permanent nature of the buildings that he produced as an architect. ‘’I accept that my installations are
ephemeral, but I believe that they have an even greater power as a result’’, he said. ‘’Once they are documented, their
memory becomes even more powerful. I know that they no longer exist, but they are just as alive today as ever. It is
uplifting that they have this inner power’’.
While Attard completely rejects the commercial gallery side of the art world, he displays impressive networking skills
and seems to have the knack of getting to know the right people. He has forged strong links with North West trendset-
ters Urban Splash, and the company helped to organize an installation called ‘’Tu Es Petrus’’ at Liverpool’s St. Peter’s
Church. Next year he plans to work with Urban Splash again on a building in Bradford. The development company
clearly sees the marketing potential in Attard’s immediate and bold form of installation art.

Attard maintains a keen interest in architecture. He admires work of Alvaro Siza, Zaha Hadid, Mies van der Rohe, Louis
Kahn and Frank O Gehry, and names the Tate Modern as one of his favoirite buildings. But coming from Malta, he also
has an affinity for the historic temples that are dotted around the island. ‘’I feel their sense of order reflected in himself’’,
he said, ‘’I always have one foot in the past and one in the future’’.




Cycle
Margarita Sanchez Prieto, Curator, Havana Biennial, Cuba

During the 8th Havana Biennial, organized under the theme “art and life,” we proposed to present projects in public,
non-conventional spaces and, give opportunities to others, whose contents, interdisciplinary nature and aesthetic bold-
ness would contribute to a better understanding of human nature. Meanwhile, these projects would show the close bonds
of art and life. Taking into account these purposes, the Curator Team invited Norbert Francis Attard, an artist from
Malta, whose creation was based on the same premises we were interested in highlighting at this event rendition. Us-
ing conventional and non conventional sites of diverse nature, including some outdoor spaces, Attard has developed his
work. He was mostly influenced by the history of the place selected or simply inspired by a particular issue, in which
he displayed a very actual grammar and an interdisciplinary glance in keeping with the plural stimuli intensified by the
landslide information of global times. It is important to notice the unrevealed condition of the artwork he creates for
each project where he is invited, which he never repeats in other spaces. This indicates a self-exigency and a fecundity
not at all acquiescent.

Several months before the event’s opening, Attard visited Havana to get familiar with the exhibit spaces and for choos-
ing one in order to develop his project. The chosen space was one of the northern wings of La Cabaña -- an 18th century
colonial fortress for the defensive system against the British occupying forces and privateers and pirates, now turned
into the site of the event. There he created an installation in accordance with the specific characteristics of this wing,
something close to the concept of work in situ. The profound pit surrounding the back wall of this section prevents all
possible access to this side of the wall. For this reason the artist was compelled to use that wall as a semicircular back-
ground -- the ceiling of these wings are vaulted -- as focal center of his installation. All the wall perimeter was covered
with a digital gigantography of a blindfolded crucified naked woman that is upside down, visible only up to her knees.
This image is reflected in an upright position in the great pond occupying half of the wing floor, the other half is covered
by dry leaves.

Attard’s proposal is full of allegories activated by diverse inner sources. And I’m saying this because his native con-
text cannot be forgotten -- let’s remember that the island of Malta has been imprinted with its rich history defending
Christendom and a recent colonial past of which multiple vestiges are still left -- as well as his former profession as
an architect. All this has awakened his sensibility so that a premise like the Cabaña undoubtedly has conditioned his
installation in more than one sense. However, for a public that don’t know these aspects of the artist’s biography, the
first reading that Cycle (title of the installation) suggests, is the more transcendental one related to the transit to death of
a human being that ends her days in crucifixion. But taking this into account I don’t discard that the artist was possibly
interested in knowing that this fortress served as a prison and a place for executions since colonial times. Therefore, it is
very likely that the artist has chosen crucifixion in order to reinforce the past -- the historical time of this fortress -- and
also because that was the usual way of execution in a more remote era, in Christ times.

On the other hand, the fact that the crucified figure is a woman gives other meanings to the reading of the artwork. Not
only because the title, Cycle, leads us to women’s biological cycle and their reproduction capacity, that of giving life to
another being -- something else to add to the unavoidable transformation of the matter in its transit to death and vice-
versa: “from dust you have come, to dust you shall return” -- but also because the blindfold on a female face suggests,
besides the traditional metaphor of the way in which criminals are taken to the gallows, other allegories more related to
an atavistic notion, prevailing in our gender: that of the innocent victim, whose naivete, represented by the blindfold,
prevents her from seeing possible threats, of being aware of the temptations she provokes, or resorting to some acts of
life without foreseeing danger.
Other reasons might be added to his choice of a female figure. For many people, a feminine nude is always more attrac-
tive, and under that martyrdom condition, never practiced on this gender, could be even more impacting, although the
gigantism of the photograph also gives this impression. All these ruptures related to the truth of historical and natural
events, or on the contrary, the practice of metaphorical games founded on realities of life itself, tell us how far art is of
being boring, and, subsequently, how fruitful it could be for someone who was forced to follow the architectural moulds
-- his training subject -- to step away from it.

Nevertheless, I must acknowledge that other details of the installation are the result of an experience and a more far
reaching glance obtained in his former work a an architect, as it is shown in taking into account the whole space with
its singularities for his installation, plus certain aspects that may help spectators to enter the spirit of his artwork. I
think convenient to point out that the floor covered by dry leaves and the sound of our footsteps crushing them help us
to undergo the sudden pervasive influence of the artwork, operating as another recourse of interactive perception. The
shadows in all this zone, only illuminated by a diffuse red light near the entrance, highlights by contrast, the spectacular
nature of the crucified naked body already implicit in the truthfulness of the photograph, also reinforced by the lights
coming from both sides of the vaulted ceiling and by the reflection of the body in the pond. The legs not appearing in
the digital photograph are floating there. In my opinion, Attard placed them there, for insisting again on the subject sug-
gested by the title, the transformation of the matter, rather than for not leaving loose ends, in this case, stressed by the
effect produced by the water, an element where the origins of life can be found, according to science,.

A last detail, barely perceptible, but unavoidable for its absurdity, closes the artwork: the woman “smiles.” This insistent
play with paradoxes is possibly what grants to his doing a particular hallmark, working the same way as style when
identifying a painter’s piece. Maybe this is the milestone of the discourse permeating his entire work, regardless of the
clever interconnection with the rest of the components in this artwork have already arranged a reading that can satisfy
the most demanding audience, at both a sensorial and intellectual level.




The Last Supper or Why the contemporary cultural Taliban cannot be smokers.
Paul Sant Cassia

Excerpts of this essay was published in Norbert Francis Attard’s book I See Red Everywhere


Christianity revolves around the ingestion of profane substances and their transubstantiation into sacred grace, trans-
forming both the recipient and the substance. To distinguish themselves from their Jewish brethren, early Christian
Fathers encouraged the eating of pork and instituted calendrical, rather than food taboos. Meals are the main locus for
magic and transformation. Christianity begins and ends around a meal. The meal, the deipnon, marks the beginning and
the end of the signs (simeiomata) of Christ’s magical and divine status. Christ begins his public career as magic maker
by transforming water into wine at the marriage feast at Cana. He then ends his material existence, through a (secret) dis-
closure to his select group of followers at another meal, the Last Supper. Here he inaugurates his divine nature through
auto-consecration, transforming bread and wine into body and blood - and let us not forget, water (the only liquid left
in his body when lanced by the Centurion after having been given over-fermented wine, i.e. vinegar). The moment
(stigmi) he transforms himself into sacrificial victim, where he is both sacrificer and sacrificed, is the precise moment
when his body is marked (stigmatismenos) for suffering.

The Last Supper Mark I is thus the prototypical event for Western Christian Civilisation. A conventional reading is that
this event transformed a personal cult around a charismatic prophetic figure into a world religion. It is also conspirators’
charter. A small cult meets secretly to become a subversive and iconoclastic force in a global empire. In the hands of
western artists, The Last Supper became a staple for the exploration of drama from Da Vinci to Poussin and Dali. To
be sure there were precedents among the Ancients. Plato’s Symposium, the last Socratic dialogue, is a pre-run of the
Christian disclosure, but with an unbearable sadness.

At first sight Attard’s piece The Last Supper is relatively transparent. The artist wishes to suggest a different interpre-
tation of the most famous symbol of western civilisation: the breaking of bread together, the establishment of a new
religion, and sacrifice. Here we are presented with the detritus of a meal. But was it a meal? For what we have here are
twelve plates as ashtrays with cigarette stubs and ash, and glasses. They may even be attracting the proverbial post-
modernist flies - shades of Damien Hirst, but whereas the latter was interested in decaying transformation, Attard seems
interested in the nausea of objects. This does not appear to have been a meal at all. There is no detritus of food. Instead,
we get the impression that this was either a group of uneducated anorexic philistines, keen on transgressing our fas-
tidiousness in keeping plates separated from ash, or a bunch of speakeasy gamblers who moved into a dark smoky and
dingy backroom for a sweaty game of cards, much like in Kubrick’s early film, The Bachelor Party. This Last Supper
Mark II is thus a supremely post-modern work relying on the seductive (and ultimately narcissistic) juxtaposition of an
evocative title with a transgressive combination of objects. It uses unpleasant presences to suggest absences that we are
not so concerned about. Few viewing this work will be concerned with the people who have left.

Instead, an irreducible, unshiftable, stubborn, materiality of things that ought to have been cleared up confronts us. The
installation suggests that the departed haven’t eaten anything at all. Rather, they have conspired nervously and inter-
minably, each person’s anxiety reflecting and feeding his neighbours’. And they have left hopelessly. Nor is there any
hint of femininity. The image would be perfect for the anti-smoking lobby, or indeed would fit in nicely with Benetton’s
shock advertising images released a few years ago.

Because we are all now fashionably post-modernist we should be suitably intrigued by The Last Supper, Mark II. Is it a
Mark II at all? Perhaps there is no intended linkage with Christianity – in which case the title and the pretence would be
pretentiously facetious? It seems to me that the artist intended the connections with Christianity. This work presented
me with a series of interesting (and perhaps obvious) questions but also left me with a profound unease, which may have
been the artist’s un/intention. Perhaps early Christians were a band of nervous conspirators, perhaps it was all a Euripid-
ean illusion, perhaps Christianity was based upon a complete misrecognition, and early Christians actually were a bunch
of nervous Maoists intent on a cultural revolution, or chain-smoking iconoclastic Taliban. Perhaps the Last Supper
Mark 1 was precisely a sordid, unpleasant, nervous affair. But the lasting impression of this work is secularly bleak, al-
most Godotian, but without the uplifting, teasing, intriguing, mirror-refracting, and mocking irony – i.e. without the barb
in the hook that tears into the fisherman’s finger at the precise moment he rips the hook out of the gaping lips of the fish.
Fish and fisherman are thus mutually compromised. We do not get this here. Rather, we get post-modern ethically neu-
tral, apolitical, irony: the shuddering impact of the whale-killing explosive harpoon, delivered with aesthetically clinical
precision from a safe telescopic distance (Attard originally trained as an architect and much of his work can to my mind
be viewed through that axionometric perspective, i.e. as templates for literal ideas). Gone are the questions that would
have troubled medieval writers or even art historians: Was the detritus of the meal itself holy? How should it have been
treated? And why were there no sacred relics of the original meal, in contrast to the mass-production of, and voracious
appetite for, relics (pieces of the cross, bone fragments of saints, etc) that accompanied and facilitated the spread of the
new religion in the first historical example of globalisation? Perhaps that is a key to the significance to The Last Sup-
per Mark 1, and its difference to Attard’s Last Supper. The original Last Supper potentially sacramentalised (and thus
aestheticised) all other subsequent meals. It relied upon, and employed, a symbolism that was supremely transferable,
humanly adaptable and embedded, transforming the most ordinary of secular rituals into a potentially transcendental
recreation of the world and its suffering. By relying on the most humble of materials, products of the interaction of man
with nature, it transcended matter, and our reliance on matter. It also widened the religious nucleus from the family an-
cestors to the wider community. Whereas the original deipnon aetheticised the original combination of words, actions,
and shamanic transformations for all time, contemporary artistic shamanism, jealous of that original power, aesthetices
its denial through mock representation. Our contemporary Last Suppers commemorate nothing but detritus, the products
of a world that glorifies not certainty but uncertainty, a world that commemorates the transient because that may be all
much contemporary art can encompass. Unable to bear this wasteland, its own cultural production, it attempts through
our modern cultural Taliban (our curators and much of the contemporary art industry, for art is a cultural product like
any other) to transcend this spiritual poverty, through the aesthetic narcissism of words, events, happenings, installa-
tions, and simulated voyeuristic self-referentiality- a modern simulated iconophilia through an anxiously displayed
iconoclasm. That is the genius of our unintent, the cunningness of our unreason.




Introductory text on some of the works by Norbert Francis Attard
Mario Azzopardi


Palestrina and Hell

Johanneskirche, Feldkirch, Austria, 2003.
Electronic music by Ian Boddy.
Palestrina and Hell, curated by Eva Jacob.
PVC membrane, water, scaffolding, light, 8 sub-woofers,
4 speakers, 2 CD players, 2 amplifiers, 2 skeletons.
Water is the catalyctic element motivating the installation: it is the purifying, baptismal agent that ‘’segregates’’ and
at the same time, ‘’fuses’’ the extreme poles of the upper and lower ‘’chambers’’ of existence. There is a split between
what is beatic and peaceful and what is sinister and foreboding. Water is introduced as a mirror to extreme realities but
also as a refractory conductor that splits space and truth. Is this a moment of extreme existential anxiety or a moment of
spiritual reconciliation? Is this an uncompromising visitation to a season in hell or a deliverance through water? And are
we objective viewers or are we intertwined in this manifestation of dual extremes? The very act of watching and listen-
ing seems to make us all accomplices…

The Zealot

Old prisons, The Citadel, Victoria, Gozo, 2003.
Escape, curated by Austin Camilleri.
Back-lit digital photograph 240 cm x 240 cm on Perspex, light, wood.

8th Havana Biennale, Havana, Cuba, 2003.
Curated by Hilda Maria Rodriguez.
Digital photograph 400 cm x 600 cm printed on canvas.

This is the vulgar triumph of a zealot who anticipates that the theatrical staging of his “crucifixion” will secure massive
political attention over time. It is the navel, not the nails, that attracts the most attention. The navel is a most crucial de-
tail, since the “navel” of Christ’s Church , i.e. Byzantium and then Rome, became such a central powermongering locus,
that the instruments of sacrifice (the nails) became irrelevant stage-props. What we have here is the mocking impact of
religious politics, an insulting bigotry, operating in the name of liberation.

A Place called Paradise I & II

78, Old Mint Street, Valletta, Malta, 2002.
Cityspaces, organized by Y.M.C.A, curated by Rafael Vella.
Sand, text, umbrella, deck chair, sink, bucket, motorized pump, coloured water.

This scene is set up in a room in a worn-out part of the city, Valletta. The building contains a shaft leading to a small
internal yard, where the artist has hung one hundred bright-red body-towels. Beneath the sand, Attard reproduces selec-
tions from The Art of Travel, by de Botton, which tells about two people on a trip to Barbados, arguing about trite mat-
ters and loading their journey with boredom and frustration. It offers a perfect setting for a drama in the absurd idiom.
The striking theatrical quality reminds one of a set fit for a sequence from Pinter, Ionesco, Beckett or Le Teatre de La
Carriera. We are in front of a scene that suspends reality: it is a conscious set up that paints everything in red (the colour
of passion and energy) but which vacates the room of any human content. Nobody sits on the armchair and beneath the
umbrella; we do not know who hung the intimate pieces of female clothes on the balcony and we have no idea why there
is such a profusion of towels hanging in the shaft. Moreover, a red liquid pours from the tap and into a bucket. This is
the theatre of charades. The room almost suggests the scene of a crime and spectators are invited to move in, disturb the
sand on the floor and investigate the narrative. Or construct their own.

Back to Babel

St.James Cavalier, Centre for Creativity, Valletta, Malta, 1999.
Art in Malta Today, curated by Joseph Paul Cassar.
2 video projectors, 2 video players, one book, newspapers, light.

Drawing on classical, biblical elements, the Babel installation focuses on linguistic fragmentation as a social phenom-
enon. It also makes a forceful statement of dissent against subliminal advertising, where people’s minds are assaulted by
aural and visual impressions, without being actually aware of the massive implications. The matter grows into uncon-
scious conditioning, even indoctrination, against which art, as a free agent, can perhaps still raise a voice on behalf of
the alienated crowds. The question is whether the artist’s voice can influence and modify the complex code of language
symbols that enslave us in a digital age.

House of Cards

Debenhams Windows, Manchester, England.
Blueprint Faker & Citadel Makers (A-Z of Virtual Municipality), curated by Mike Dawson.
20 digitally printed photographs, foamboard
In our global times city planning and urban dwelling have instigated artists to rethink not only about their own space
within the city, but whether their production is providing enough room for contemplation on such complex matters as
the jungled expansion of urban locations. The disassembled “chambers” of the vulnerable “House of Cards” are re-
thought and re-grouped with an autonomy of their own, as if to provide contemplative refuge. The dilapidated state of
the images seems to be attracting the artist, as if creativity is still possible under such conditions. The open structure
of Attard’s chamber-assembly seems to be allowing the possibility of rethinking an open verdict: when new buildings
replace the old, and when new urban zones rise on the abandoned sites of unprosperous, unrepaired dwellings, is an art-
ist losing a part of his soul? Is his silence silence condoning the indiscriminate transformation and the loss? Is part of
the artist’s sensibility being eradicated along with the old buildings?

Earth Temple

Tollwood Festival,Olympia Park, Munich, Germany, 1998.
Transcutan, curated by Ludwig Frank.
Timber round poles, earth, pebbles.

Working for an environmental project, (Transkutan) Attard reminds spectators that he comes from an island famed for
its unique prehistoric temple structures. But in the artist’s “temple” representation two crucial modifications occur: i.
the interior of the earth Temple now forms a cross, unlike the womb-like interiors of the original temples of Malta; ii.
the massive monoliths of the original holy places are transformed into rubble stone. Moving within the temple confines
of Attard’s creation, “spect-actors” endorse the change of concept: the womb yields to the ritual cross of sacrifice (but
also of redemption), while the shreds of stone summon memories of mystique and mystery.

Path to Transcendence

Macedonia Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki, Greece, 2003.
The Paths to Europe, curated by Dimitri Konstantinidis and Monika Sielska.
Organised by APPOLONIA, Strasbourg, France, and ARTBOX, Thessaloniki, Greece.
12.5 metre long trailer, upholstered table and chairs, mirror, blue carpet, light.

This is a triple metaphorical representation of Malta’s path to Europe. The key elements here are water, a mirror and a
table-cum-chairs. The image of the sea has always held for Malta a dualism: it used to be regarded as boundary symbol,
signifying a protective isolation (against invasion) but then, after Independence (in 1964) the sea became a metaphor for
liberation, for reaching out, freely this time, towards the continent and elsewhere. On the other hand, the mirror reflects
reality, but this time it is showing an “evolved” reality, a virtual mutation, one that even turns and extends the sea into
a promise for transcendence. The table and chairs represent dialogue, the elements whereupon the political transactions
take place, without ever forgetting the island’s nature, its visions and projections.

Breath of Mind

Taechon Lake, Chonju, South Korea, 1998.
Breath, curated by Park Bjung Wook.
International Art and Environmental Symposium.
Organized by Nine Dragon Heads, South Korea.
Korean rope and wood.

The wooden cage, made of wood and Korean rope, stands on a shifting lake as an image of foreboding power: when
the water rises it becomes a prison, reminding viewers of the water-punishment used during the Vietnam War, when
prisoners were lowered beneath the murky, bloody waters. According to terms of Attard’s construction, when the lake
water subsides, the confines of the cage are contradicted, as reflections reach out of the cage and unto the water, creat-
ing extensions into freedom. However, it is a temporary, relative freedom, a vulnerable “frame of time” that could be
violated at any moment. The thrust of the installation is eco-political. It an urgent call provoked by a mental climate in
a geo-social context.

Twelve Dialogues

Francis Caruana Timber Stores, Xewkija, Gozo, Malta, 2003
Twelve Dialogues, curated by Norbert Francis Attard.
28 Swedish pine identical chairs.
Norbert Attard makes use of a basic technique that belongs to the theatre. A series of “chairs” becomes the site of
multiple possibilities for dialogue, whereby performers are trained to enter a mental process to induce (and fuse) imagi-
native discourse. The chairs themselves create “opposition” and there could be no theatre without such a position of
contrast. But the installation also uses symbolist design by way of selecting very simple wooden structures that could
stand as alternatives for human dynamics. Like the symbolist imagists of the stage, Attard uses his “chairs” as if they
were “things-in-themselves”, containing an internal reality. Within such a context spect-actors are invited to witness
an exercise in dramatic shorthand. Attard provides only the titles of the scenes, but leaves the constructions to work on
the imagination of the actors or viewers. Away from the concept of the stage as a pulpit, the artist impacts the scene by
setting sharp symbolic images that have a life of their own. Inviting his viewers to an interactive interpretation of the
theatrical arrangement, what the chair-images are “saying” could be anyone’s valid guess. But one thing is clear: these
constructs are far from silent.

Glasshouse Mountains

Woodford Festival, Woodford, Queensland, Australia, 2001.
Sticks and Stones, curated by Peggy Smith.
 Bamboo, lava stones, rope and branches.

The universal symbol of the circle is a crucial factor in the ancient civilization of the Mediterranean, the artist’s forma-
tive cradle. Elemental materials, including stones and branches, compose Attard’s circular, energizing installation. The
shape is also remarkably reminiscent of a firework structure (so typical of Malta’s celebratory rituals) , a wheel that is
ready to erupt into powerful action at any given instance. Assembled for a Festival of Art Forms in Australia, the circular
sculpture can be seen to convey totality and wholeness as products of self-knowledge and self-projection, so closely
related to the creative act.

Grey is Hard to Find

Portomaso, Malta, 2002.
Uber, Group show of fourteen artists, curated by Mark Mangion.
Glass coffin, grey fabric, dried dung, laptop showing video.

The scene is set for burial. Drapes suspend the solitary coffin and the earth is ready to cover the imminent and com-
plete disintegration of the corpse. But the convention of the burial is disturbed. The coffin is made of glass and the
digital screen continues to project images of life and human activity, including written documentation. The installation
becomes a denial of death, a desperate appeal for survival. The glass, seemingly protective, serves only to project il-
lusion and to reflect the spectators’ own sentence to death. On the other hand the screened fleeting images are nothing
more than just that. The ultimate truth has to do with the extreme divide between life and death. It is white pigmentation
against black. Grey is not reliable in the least.

Split

GOZO contemporary, Gozo, Gharb, Malta, 2003
Norbert Francis Attard in collaboration with Sumer Erek.
Hollow section metal channels, metal wire, string

A cage of nerve fibres closes on a woman. A system of cell and fibre excitations arrest the female body, which seems
to offer no resistance. The woman remains passive, directing her attention neither to stimulus nor to response. There is
no female hysteria here, no psychogenic reaction rising from provocation, anxiety, conflict or repression. In fact, the
woman is clinically objectivised, unsexed and mutely defiant. The cage is a male construction, an extension of male
paranoia in response to the female power of indifference. The total lack of sensorial reaction on the part of the woman
intensifies the unemotional threat, making the cage redundant, even inane.

Beyond Conflict

The Oratory, 2nd Liverpool Biennial (Independent), England, 2002.
Beyond Conflict, curated by Mike Hurst.
Organised by the afoundation, Liverpool, England.
Red and green fabric.

Using an old burial place, Liverpool’s Oratory, Norbert Attard encloses the classic building with massive bands of fab-
ric, weaving red and green as opposites. One meaning for this unorthodoxly conceived dressing is that in death, all op-
posites are neutralised and contradictions do not hold any longer. Besides the choice of red and green as opposites, the
installation conveys another sense of duality: the inner and the outer. The inner element (death) is sealed away and the
outer reality celebrates, momentarily, passionate energy (red) and hopeful tranquility (green). Attard’s installation uti-
lizes form and colour in a configuration that confronts the observer with an appearance of materiality, when in fact, the
ultimate significance of the inner meaning has to do, yet again, with a metaphysical concept, related to death and beyond.

Cycle

8th Havana Biennale, Havana, Cuba, 2003.
Curated by Hilda Maria Rodriguez.
Digital photograph 400 cm x 600 cm, PVC membrane, water, artificial legs.

From the mists of antiquity (far older than Christ or any other god-like being) the image of the suffering body comes
back, recurrently, to remind us of liberation through pain. Through water, another ancient sign related to birth, purifica-
tion and rebirth, pain (and therefore sin) is dissolved. And the spirit is made clean.The inversely crucified female image,
blindfolded to suggest that it does not belong to any particular time-frame. Moreover, the suffering female intensifies
the cyclical motiv, even in biological terms. As the image touches the water, it is purified and assumes a lyrical, mystic
quality. The woman has freed herself and us through her pain cycle and the liberation is celebrated by water. But out of
the cathartic pool, a pair of legs, blood-stained, ominous and unexpected, emerge to haunt us, disturbing the baptismal
setting. Sin is reborn, recycled.

Rites of Passage

Auberge de Castille, Valletta, Malta, 1999.
Rites of Passage, curated by Peter Serracino Inglott.
December 31st 1999 Millenium celebrations and official opening of
St.James Cavalier, Centre for Creativity, Valletta, Malta.
Back-projected video onto the entrance door of the Prime Ministers office.

The celebrations marking Malta’s passage into the new millennium continues. The quality of the images is both histori-
cal and mythical, lending a distinct interpretation to Malta’s key-moments of evolvement, from pagan fertility worship
to the intense Christocentric texture of contemporary devotion. The installation serves as a manifestation of collective
faith, not in the traditional sense that suggests mere acceptance of certain prepositions, but as an analysis of the island-
ers’ mystical attachment to higher forces. It is also significant that the images for this installation were projected onto
the entrance of the building representing Malta’s seat of political power: the soliciting for the Island’s future visions
became emphatic and socially-charged.

Ora Pro Nobis

Cathedral Museum, Mdina, Malta, 2000.
2nd Biennale of ContemporaryChristian Art.
Ora Pro Nobis, curated by Mgr. Vincent. Borg.
Two thousand shoes, Video projector, monitor,two video players.

In this disturbing installation, shoes strewn inside an oppressive enclosure (seemingly with a dead end) yield different
meanings. They could be the shoes that a mass of people have left behind as they escaped from haunting experiences,
possibly of their own doing. The shoes could also belong to people who have been swallowed up by a contemporary
plague, a sweeping disaster, a holocaust. The large collection of abandoned shoes has a narrative of its own. The silent
presence of the shoes is manifestly deceptive: every pair of shoes, far being “silent”, are having a harrowing story to
divulge. The supplication of prayer over the uncanny remnants in the tunnel seems to invoke pity, rather than hope, in-
fusing the scene with relentless despair. Our own despair, too, as the title suggests. We are implicated in the title, which
uses the litanic form to incriminate “us” (nobis).

Tolerance of Ambiguity

Ciudad de Oviedo, Spain, 1998.
Diaspora International Contemporary Art Meeting curated by Javier Baron,
Orlando Britto Jinorio, Luciano Escanilla, Anke Mellin, Andres Pereiro, Cuco Suarez.
Rendered cement on red bricks, metal pin, plank of wood.
The structure signifying Tolerance of Ambiguity evokes the brunt of illogical politics. Why would “balance” be sought
by means of a see-saw that is actually blocked by a wall, screening “the other side”? Why would one choose to “see-
saw” rather than take the logical route, climb the stairs and meet “the other” on the plateau of convergence? Norbert
Attard’s installation, erected as a metaphor for the theme of exile and hopeful fusion, addresses the obsession with
political circumnavigation as the absurdity that defies reason. Does the interactive nature of the piece threaten to turn
participants into obliging partners to the state of play?

Larger than Life I & II

St. James Cavalier, Valletta, Malta, 1999.
Re-Interpreting Preti, curated by Dominic Cutajar, Adrian Bartolo and Theresa Vella.
9 slide projectors, 6m motorized pendulum, monitor, video player, 24 torchlights, candles.

48th Venice Biennale, Italy, 1999.
Larger than Life, curated by Adrian Bartolo.
4m motorized pendulum, video projector, monitor, two video players.

Against the austere, arched walls of St. James Cavalier, a sixteenth century military stronghold, the artist projected im-
ages from Mattia Preti, an exuberant Baroque painter who spent the last forty years of his life in Malta. Attard’s Baroque
celebration reflects Malta’s aesthetic preference for an elaborate style that connects space and time. Cutting across time
frames, the Baroque has left an indelible mark on Malta’s society and its imagination. The time-passage motif is accen-
tuated by Attard’s creation of ‘routes’, transforming the severe vaults of the fortress building into ornate expressions
responding to Baroque theatricality. At the end of the pathway, the artist installs a pendulum, a metaphor of abstract
time that also “contradicts” spatial distance: the Baroque perception in Malta has no time-frames and it survives in
the 21st century in religious ceremonial, village feasts, heavily decorated dwellings and band music. Moreover, on
the pendulum-pan, Attard screens sequences from a Maltese wedding, an elaborate, flamboyant expression of popular
culture that provides a contemporary link to the high Baroque fashion that dominated Malta and its islanders since the
seventeenth century.

One Extreme to Another

St.Leonards School, St. Andrews, Scotland, 2002.
One Extreme to Another, curated by Donna Rae.
100m. white fabric, red spray, table, chair, computer keyboard.

Working with art students the artist returns to a concept related to red, the primary colour of life, emotion, passion and
energy, but also of political agitation. In a publication entitled I See Red Everywhere (2002) Norbert Attard quoted from
Wittgenstein: “Can I say drink in the colour red and then you’ll see that it can never be presented by anything else?” The
artist now seems to be wanting to impress upon the minds of a group of adolescent students that red is the medium: 120
meters of crimplene fabric were covered with graffiti sprayed in red, claiming sunshine, love, passion, sex, pain, war,
violence and death in the form of execution. To emphasise the textual message further, Attard planted in his installation
a red computer keyboard, a red table and a red chair. The provocative (even disturbing) feature of the installation had to
do with its being devised in a serene garden, with the fabric used to link two sturdy trees, symbols of stability. Attard
challenges the passive reality of the garden (a paradise of illusion) and attempts to answer Wittgenstein’s fundamental
question, in alliance with a group of young people prepared to venture into the intellectual research for red symbolism
and for authentic life meanings. Even if that denotes the extremes on the margins.

Salina’s Lament

Pinto Stores, Pinto Wharf, Valletta, Malta, 2003.
Borders, curated by START and Richard Davies.
Music by electronic sound artist Ian Boddy.
Poem by Mario Azzopardi.
Re-assembled structure found on premises, PVC membrane,
water, CD player, amplifier, four speakers, light.

Poets are summoned to look upon the misery of Salina, a woman representing the victims of global injustice and violent
death. She looks inside the fatal wound that killed the man she loved and the poets, as guardians or prophets of justice,
are solicited to speak in her name. They are asked to fill Salina’s miserable ‘wound of pain’ with poetry, as a sign that
her pitiful bereavement is, indeed a symbol for all those who thirst for justice, and whose memories are also filled with
pain. The presence (or absence) of water in the poem remains ambivalent, ambiguous: Is this the water that drowns all
hope? Is it the water that retains drowned memories of pity? Is it the water of purgation or the water of regeneration?

House of Cards

Debenhams Windows, Manchester, England.
Blueprint Faker & Citadel Makers (A-Z of Virtual Municipality), curated by Mike Dawson.
20 digitally printed photographs, foamboard

In our global times city planning and urban dwelling have instigated artists to rethink not only about their own space
within the city, but whether their production is providing enough room for contemplation on such complex matters as
the jungled expansion of urban locations. What Norbert Attard does here is to deconstruct existing realities to re-arrange
them in a self-reflexive mood. The disassembled “chambers” of the vulnerable “House of Cards” are re-thought and
re-grouped with an autonomy of their own, as if to provide contemplative refuge. The dilapidated state of the images
seems to be attracting the artist, as if creativity is still possible under such conditions. The open structure of Attard’s
chamber-assembly seems to be allowing the possibility of rethinking an open verdict: when new buildings replace the
old, and when new urban zones rise on the abandoned sites of unprosperous, unrepaired dwellings, is an artist losing a
part of his soul? Is his silence silence condoning the indiscriminate transformation and the loss? Is part of the artist’s
sensibility being eradicated along with the old buildings?

And Smuff2603

Pinto Stores, Pinto Wharf, Valletta, Malta, 2003.
Collaboration between Norbert Francis Attard and Mark Mangion.
Borders, curated by START and Richard Davies.
Three video projectors, three DVD players, specially constructed viewing room.

Unrelated images are projected whilst dialectical opposites inform the spectacle, as Attard continues his search to syn-
tethise truth out of opposing forces. He creates a series of blends and clashes, a vast tissue of contradictory elements
having to do with initiation and termination, agitation and repose, past and present, inclusion and exclusion and so forth.
The perceptibility of frontal opposites is a textuality that resurfaces over and over again in Attard’s art. It is a form of
philosophical interrogation that attaches skepticism to the pluriformity that informs Attard’s creations. Any conception
that hits the mind of the artist is immediately confronted by a sense of “otherness”, a replacement that turns the original
idea into something provisional, of temporary scale, liable to being dismissed as its opposite takes the foreground. The
alternative search is everywhere and it bears the symptoms of our epoch.

Balance

Wejba Creek, Noosa, Queensland, Australia. 2001.
The Floating Lan, curated by Kevin Wilson.
Organised by Noosa Regional Gallery, Noosa, Queensland, Australia.
Mirrored perspex, timber structure, branches.

Balance can mean an instrument for weighing. It can also refer to the imaginary scales of destiny, by which deeds and
principles are weighed. It can mean the power to decide fate, to equipoise or to equalize.The boat in Attard’s version
counteracts influence: it is of the sea, reflecting water and therefore, life, but its load is a spent, dry one. It is a dead load
of spent energy and entropy, the product of a civilization that denies life and nature, cynically. The “balance” of the title
thus confronts us with the concept of judgement: Your deeds have been weighed and you have been found wanting. On
the scheme of time there only remains the journey of dead values.




Norbert Francis Attard: Top Maltese Art Export
Michael J. Mumford


Michael Mumford shares a cup of java with Maltese artist Norbert Francis Attard at his spacious Gozo studios, finding
a man who is stimulated, inspired and fully engaged for his life’s passion – art.

Artist, Norbert Attard is noted as one of Malta’s most prolific artists. He is well known and respected in his home coun-
try of Malta. But, what is not recognized by many of his countrymen is, today Norbert is becoming a regular “offshore”
event – rapidly gaining recognition for his work abroad.

Instinctively I reach for a book from a table; its cover reads: Four Olympics -A Chronology of works 1998 - 2004. The
book has been created by Norbert to chronicle a number of his creations in the form he refers to as Installation Art.
Featured within are four installation art works he created for last years World Olympic Games along with a repertoire
of earlier works. Norbert explains “ the underlying thought for this creative mode are concepts and materials linked in
someway to the installation event/site – often I use materials found when I arrive onsite – which are given a mission,
energizing new life, transforming established meaning for objects, constructions and crafted materials elevating the
observers experience and perceptions”.

Norbert has reached his ‘middle ground’ of his life’s journey. An optimist he continues along a winding pathway on
which he has found people – signposts - for guidance and inspiration who have helped illuminate the blind bends and
dark dips to be encountered.
Norbert comments “I had art in mind from a very early age, however, the passion of art was tempered with reality for
living and practicality. His father had a strong and lasting influence on young Norbert who would often accompany his
father on business trips. This training ‘grounded’ Norbert for the need to be financially productive and self - supporting.
Both these lessons were taken to heart and Norbert continued his formal education turning to Architecture as a profes-
sion.

However, Norbert was conflicted with art and his business practice as an Architect. This conflict deepened with time
and his resolve came to him when he finally decided to place art as his main focus in 1996. Today Norbert is a full–time
artist.

By now we are well into our second cup of coffee; primed, we continued to interact on a range of discussions involving
his recent concepts and art forms. The following questions and answers are derived from our discussions.


Why did your interests/endeavours for Architecture lose to those you held for art?

The demands of a full-time architectural practice and commitments that went with the job were prohibiting my advance-
ment and creativity on both fronts. There was deep frustration with my drive to be creatively productive within two par-
allel creative mediums. In effect, I was functioning within a cul-de-sac – stuck. The turning point arrived in 1996 when
I altered everything. My conscious decision entailed a fulltime commitment to art and transformation to Installation Art.
The total experience has been very positive and enriching.

Do you harbour any desire for creating architecture; to design a structure say…a home and if so, would your design ap-
proach be different today than in the past?

“Yes. I would enjoy teaming up with someone or some group that would allow me to work on a project but who would
take care of all the necessary details such as MEPA approvals etc. My approach to Architecture would be different as I
am a different person now. When you reach a point where the medium you use to express yourself creatively prohibits
you from presenting new expressions of ideas and concepts it is time to change, allowing you to continue to be creative
and productive.

Now that you have reached middle age - do you have a vision of the future that you will pursue into old age?

There is always something on the horizon. I may conclude yet another chapter in my life and cease creating works of art.
I have held a vision for some time to become seriously involved at another level of creativity. My vision entails forming
a foundation mandated and provisioned to support artists within a space they can explore and develop their art. At the
same time I would continue to grow as a creative person but at another level – fresh and challenged. Of course, this is
another one of life’s crossroads; to realize this vision it would take a serious commitment of time and energy – I would
need to focus on this enterprise entirely.

It has been said that with age comes wisdom. Has your life experiences benefited you in this way influencing new art-
work or a new direction?

“Wisdom is earned – you have to work for it. All of my life experiences are gradual transitions and changes, a continu-
ous process…so my work is a reflection of this state. The moment I cease to grow and change within - then my creativity
will also reflect this in perhaps a staleness or repetition. Repeating ground that has been covered would make me feel
uncomfortable. To keep moving forward I must remain stimulated, fresh and continue to make an effort to earn the next
level”.

You have spoken of the need to be independent while on the other hand you speak of collaboration with other creative
personages. How do these two philosophies co-exist and what benefits are derived?

“Forming alliances with creative people who possess certain expertise and abilities for a specific artistic project is a
unique experience for both creative partners and in the end the viewers are provided with an opportunity to discover
something that may not have existed otherwise. My creative independence remains intact when my concept is at the
core. When real collaboration exists from the outset through to completion - results are excellent. An outstanding ex-
ample of this form of creative partnering is works found in Four Olympics. I was fortunate to collaborate with some very
fine creative people from different walks of creativity. People like Australian John Fuller - a wood furniture designer
who’s collaboration is reflected in our wood sculptures A Bit Of Boat and video specialist Chris Pace of Malta for our
collaboration Olympic Kiss and the text throughout by Maltese writer Stanley Borg. Each collaboration and medium
resulted in a unique and powerful communication.
Community based installation art is another facet of collaboration methods I employ. This form enlists local people to
collaborate with me to construct an installation using certain materials and once this stage is completed they themselves
become the users and participants. I favour this format as it presents another way to accomplish two things. First: it
makes the art place-orientated and secondly: it presents an opportunity for participants to include their own innate
creative instincts to produce something that is enriched. This style or approach is an outgrowth of my experience as
an Architect where I would work with the client participating fully in the design process to achieve a complete and
satisfactory product”.

How do you become involved in these overseas creative opportunities?

“You must be pro-active and do the research to discover an event. Once you have located one that you are motivated to
participate, you are more obliged to communicate by submitting a formal form / proposal. This entails some background
and your intentions for the artwork. In most cases a theme will have been established and you can develop your proposal
to fit. Your proposal along with hundreds sometimes thousands is reviewed sifted and then if all things are right – se-
lected. This happens with the majority of overseas participations. Another means to be exhibited is the connecting way.
By this I mean your work has been exhibited or viewed on a Web site by someone that has an interest and has placed
your name in the “hat’ to be contacted for an event. Sometimes it is just chance that these opportunities arise”.

You were invited to Japan last year to participate in a creative project. How did this unfold?

“ Again it was by proposal. I was selected along with two other artists. My proposal resulted in a production of eight
installations titled: Between Earth And Sky. Being a site-specific artist I left for Japan with a concept - not the final
artwork. The art takes on life from the site(s), materials, and resources at hand. The Japanese works were community
based and represent a cumulative spirit integral for the overall success.
 I attempted to make a connection between the Maltese and the Japanese cultures using diverse disciplines and varied
materials. My concept was to connect the Japanese equinox holidays – spring and fall. This connected with our Maltese
temples and their orientation for the equinoxes and solstices. Japanese have a reverence for nature. This in turn connects
to the ancients who lived with this awareness. The Japanese are representing the present and the past is represented in
Malta’s ancient temple sites – they both connect through space and time. The complete concept included mathematical
and astronomical theories”.

The themes you chose: Ancient Symbols, The Fibonacci numbers and the Golden Number Phi (Greek) communicate
and convey ancient language and universal laws tied to the ancient Neolithic and Megalithic sites in Malta. How did this
work connect with Japanese culture?

“These theories link with nature. Shinto the Japanese indigenous religion/philosophy grew out of the love of nature.
There is a universal language that transcends time and space. Spirals for instance are symbolic of time, regeneration, and
continuity. The Fibonnaci number sequences produce a spiral – this is observed in everything from seashells to galaxies.
The Golden Number Phi is one of those mysterious natural numbers that seem to arise out of the basic structure of our
cosmos”.

Do you personally find inspiration within these universal numbers?

“The first thing you find interesting is that it is not random; there is structure - all creation fits and there is a consistency.
Numbers mean that there must be a hand in the design. Design a building and numbers are used to create proportions etc.
For some reason I automatically create something that has similar proportions…a sense of order. This also takes place in
the temples and I feel this in me, as I am part of this order. I feel this sense of order comes from theory, pattern, numbers
and that is why I develop my art in an innate way due to these universal influences that are always present.

During four journeys to Japan I have observed Japanese culture and I see nothing is left to chance. Japanese are an
ordered society they revere nature and their philosophy represents a living embodiment for what I believe was once
universally understood and practiced by humankind in the far distant past. This is why I connect well with Japanese
people and their culture.

You mentioned that you have experienced a continuation of the event(s) in Japan upon returning to your studio . . . what
took place?

“Upon my return to Gozo I sat at my computer loading photos of some of my Japanese work/concepts. When I saw these
pictures on-screen patterns emerged and I began to explore further and further with astonishing results. These results
produced a whole new series of creative work. The order we discussed previously appeared to me within these patterns.
I have included these works in my next book calling them “Sparticles”. This name refers to supersymmetry that exist in
the cosmos. The fundamental tenant of supersymmetry is that every particle has a supersymmetric twin. Each particle is
related to its twin but it is not the same. Perhaps this quotation from my reading on the subject will help.

“Symmetries are a powerful tool for figuring out the underlying structure of an object. In a sense, a symmetry is sim-
ply a fancy term for a pattern, and science is, at its heart, a search for patterns”. Source: Alpha and Omega by Charles
Seife.

What can we expect to find between the covers of your new book due to be published later this year?

“My next book is presently consisting of two main parts incorporating the works completed in Japan and some works
that resulted from the project upon returning to Gozo. The first section is called Between Earth and Sky a series of eight
installations. Section two reflects the continuation of four works I named the Sparticle Series.

You recently created and produced installation art works held underground in Birgu (Vittoriosa, Malta) located within
the underground labyrinth of air raid shelters dug to protect the civilian population during the Second World War. What
were these works and how did you install in this most unusual setting?

“The theme of my works reflected in different ways the location being an underground war protection sanctuary. The
first installation Zen Garden was a Japanese style garden usually found in an external space, mine was formed in an
internal space. Zen is peace the site war connected. The garden consisted of marble chippings, bomb shells (3) made
from Maltese limestone. This installation theme took on the combined Peace and War juxtaposition within a thought
provoking setting.

The second piece named Swing 1 is an interactive sculpture consisting of a pair of link chains and a pair of replica mili-
tary guns with barrels welded opposing each other. They form a seat slung between the chains hung from the ceiling. For
me this symbolizes freedom opposing the confinement that war was imposing on the inhabitants of the shelter.
The Game is the third art installation consisting table and two clear acrylic chairs with an etched chessboard. The pieces
are in the form of Cowboys opposed by Indians. It is an interactive installation meaning viewers are invited to sit and
play. The word Game represents an interactive pastime and at the same time it has an underlying purpose to win by
destroying your opponent. This is war.

The last installation is called Faith, Hope, and Charity. This is a moving slide projection which projects a representation
of three fighters in flight formation onto the underground walls and ceilings. This connects viewers to the history of WW
11 and the fact that there existed only three defending air force fighters when hostilities commenced over Malta. This
media projection was in a form of text fitting to the illuminated outline of a flying group of three fighters. The text reads:
Please wipe your feet before entering shelter. This text is absurd in context of what would have been at the time of war
a hurried entry to preserve life. This brings to mind the degrading effect of war - a break down of humanity, civilization,
and social nicety.

I found a common thread to link each piece with the surroundings - opposites: freedom vs. confinement, peace vs. war,
winning vs. loosing and normality vs. absurdity.

What is on the horizon for your works this year?
I have been invited to exhibit at the Casoria Museum of Contemporary Art in Naples, Italy, and participate in a collec-
tive show in Kiev, Ukraine, later this month. In June I am presenting two works: one which includes music by Maltese
composer Ruben Zahra at the John David Mooney Foundation in Chicago, USA., and the other at the International
Video Festival in Istanbul, Turkey. Later this summer I will return to Japan and Taiwan to initiate new works.

Norbert Attard is an artist following a destiny that continues to unfold –interlace, connect and form creative relation-
ships enhancing our lives and outlooks through artful insights from his mind’s eye. Stay tuned.




Religious yearning for salvation through extremes
Stanley Borg


Le pécheur est au coeur meme de chrétiene…
Nul n’est aussi compétent que le pécheur en
matière de chrétieneté. Nul, si ce n’est le saint.

Péguy


Salvation lies in extremes. Either-Or, black or white, sans permitting tolerance for the bourgeois compromise that is
grey. Either Augustine, rational order, man of action. Or Pelagius, sinner, chaos, man of thought suffering from the
disease of consciousness, that malady of seeing too deep and too much contracting in the dead end of Eliot’s Gerontion:
‘After such knowledge, what forgiveness?’

Heaven or hell.

Yet are extremes really opposites, or just the same side of a different coin? The last fifty years or so of critical theory
seem to point to the second option while discarding opposites as a basic fallacy of logocentrism, that metaphysics which
Derrida accuses as fostering the concept of being. The point of departure for Derrida’s indictment is apparently Ni-
etzsche’s comment in The Will to Power that ‘false opposites, in which the people, and consequently language, believe,
have always been dangerous hindrances to the advance of truth’. There seem to be no opposites but extremes, and the
further these are, the closer they come full circle.

Who would have thought that saint and sinner eat off the same plate, yet with different forks? In truth, even the greatest
of existentialist outsiders, Nietzsche, seeking the equilibrium of dance on the verge of the abyss and making a tentative
jump, has Christian roots. Both the saint and the Leipzig philosopher share a passion for eternity, eternal recurrence and
engage in the quest for a higher man. They simultaneously repudiate the universal and are essentially ahistorical and
irrational in that they make movements of faith on the strength of the absurd. Again, the existentialist outsider, endowed
or enburdened with a thought-riddled nature, is committed to truth, just like the saint. Both Camus’ Meursault and the
Christian saints are martyrs for the sake of truth – saint and existentialist outsider are unable to live in the comfortable,
insulated world of the bourgeois, accepting what they see and touch as reality. Thus, both seek salvation in extremes,
finding it difficult to see bourgeois grey anywhere, joining Norbert Francis Attard in an ideal, existentialist Place called
Paradise.

Either one or the other extreme alludes to the other or to the one. Taking the most extreme of extremes, life and death,
it is only the latter which is the clue to authentic living. Both birth in life and death are mutual conditions of the other.
This is the kind of extremity Freud stated when he invoked the pleasure principle and the death instinct simultaneously.
Each extreme is a thauma to the other, a moment or a sense of wonder and recognition that impels philosophisation and
creation of any form of art, including that of installation.

Installation art in all its guises explores the notion that space and time are, in and of themselves, fodder for artistic con-
sumption. An artist takes over an installation space like a temporary squatter whose clutter of possessions challenges
boundaries and sparks dialogue between the space itself and its contents. Dialogue because the being of an installation
is not a matter of sole location, but an engagement with spatial conditions of time, light, weather. Thus a site-specific
installation is created, beholded, and then dismantled, the actual process showing the two extremes of man who is bent
both on creation and destruction, continuity and death. It comes as no surprise that Beuys utters the words ‘death’ and
‘Continuum’ in the same artistic breath.
In some of Attard’s installations, the space itself is a religious context and in most of them, the dialogue is a reflective
one – both in form, content and meaning. The extremes on which Attard’s installations are based are each reflected and
refracted to a different density, yet never Clone(d), be it the waters of the Noosa River, the upper and lower layers of
an Earth Temple, a shallow basin of water in a church, even the projection itself of AND SMUFF2603. And though re-
flected and refracted, these extremes stay contained in themselves and never tint to create a middle distance on touching.
In essence, the red and green cloth in Beyond Conflict twist and turn in each other, like the blue and red pannolenci in
Paola Pezzi’s 2002 Vortice, yet they remain separate and never copulate in a blue haze. If there is a middle distance, then
it is an abstract layer, like the water between the extremes of heaven and hell in Palestrina and Hell or that in Attard’s
Taiwan installation Container 21st Century, which despite carrying Richard Wilson’s industrial overtones, manages to
regenerate and connect continental extremes through a waterfall.

Reflection in itself is a eulogy of repetition, an existential preoccupation with time. Reflection is continuation, not
that eternal and flawless fabrication of cardboard boxes on the production line but rather, the erweiterte Produktion of
Beuys’s multiples and editions. Such is eternal recurrence, a salvation and renewal for man, the eternal lack of telos in
the universe, so that to will Sisyphus’ eternal cycle with enthusiasm but without hope is the ultimate attainment of af-
firmation. Todorov claims that reading is a passive type of writing. Similarly reflecting, or beholding, can be a passive
type of creating – two extremes in esse est percipi, to be is to be perceived.

This concept of One extreme reflecting the Other and simultaneously using the Other as a vehicle for self-knowledge is
a reflection of extremes that is in itself a Christian salvation. Karl Jaspers himself claims that being awakened by the
Other is like Christian salvation – “my uniqueness is elicited by and requires the uniqueness of others…one becomes
oneself and brings the other to himself in thus opening oneself to him. It is…the struggle of beings that recognise
themselves as united but have as a condition of their reality to assert and maintain their difference”. This means that the
Other is always an extreme, another subject, yet not in an egocentric but rather in a subjective communion. Following
this precept, even if Vanessa Beecroft’s nude models are presented in a shared communal stance, each model remains
an individual space within a space.

This reflected notion of to be is to be perceived is explored by Olafur Eliasson, whose installations are so ephemeral
and subtle that there is a reversal of extremes – the viewer seems to be viewed by the installation itself rather than the
other way round. Eliasson’s works are instances of self-awareness, acknowledging the terrifying being-in-the-world. In
Your Sun Machine, the viewer solidifies the act of perceiving and thus becomes aware of a revolving human, city, Earth
around the sun. Thus to see, the viewer turned collaborator also has to be seen by the installation itself.

The same notion is examined by Attard in Tolerance of Ambiguity, an installation which becomes an event and reaches
a heightened level of participation by placing a see-saw where the vision that would enable One to see the Other is
obstructed by a stairway-wall. Given this hindrance, it is impossible for participants to achieve the necessary balance
between extremes that would enable them to behold, be beheld and ‘live’. In Tolerance of Ambiguity the esse est percipi
malfunctions and both ‘players’ are never actualised and remain invisible since their eyes never meet. Neither One nor
the Other are ever awakened to liberty and the uniqueness of One is never solicited by the uniqueness of the Other. An
encounter of extremes will only be possible when the two ends of the see-saw meet. The Meta di Borgo and the Ter-
ebinth of Nero have to meet in order for Peter to be crucified and saved.

Going a step further, the reflection of the One in the Other’s eyes only offers the consolation of a limited self-knowledge.
The answer lies in Eliasson’s work Seeing Yourself Seeing, a mirror which is partly transparent and partly solid which
thus enables the viewer to visualise the act of seeing oneself in the third person. Alternatively, one can become aware of
oneself through another medium, such as colour. In Intervention 1, Attard presents the whole colour spectrum against
the drab greyness of the Manningham Mills. Since colour is realised when light bounces off our retina, an analysis of
this same gamut is in reality an analysis of our bodily functions and us as a subject.

For Sartre, the direct reflection of the self by another self, as in a mirror, is never an adequate source of self-knowledge
– the self must be seen reflected in the eyes of the Other before it can be known. I have to see being seen – therefore
I am. The realisation of the One or the Other as such can only take place by positing the existence of a third in whose
eyes humanity is considered an object.

This is simply an ideal concept and corresponds to the idea of God as the being that sees, is not seen and, as Descartes
believes, does not deceive us. Nowadays, this function of God has been taken over by the world of manufactures and
public signs.

This is shown in Attard’s Ora Pro Nobis, which posits the two extremes of religion and consumer culture, not so much
different in that they both require the consumption of a divine body for salvation. The title of the installation itself,
although somewhat ironically posited, seems to elicit prayer for us, in an age of affluence which saw the shift from a
need-culture to a want-culture registered. Pray for us in an age where we are constantly reminded just how fat and un-
attractive we are, where our existence is reflected in a heap of undancing shoes, of plastic consumer culture and large
amounts of false urban texture. Pray for us in life, where death is no longer the capital possibility nor the clue to au-
thentic living and culpability. Pray for us, dwarfed by spectacular consumption and a high-tech, fast-paced, expensive
and global world, within which, as in an Andreas Gursky photo, the individual is but one among many whose death is
Kafkaesque and anonymous.

The two thousand shoes that litter the space of Ora Pro Nobis are the negative trace of us not having survived what
seems to have been the final consumerist solution, a Last consumerist Supper. Shoes of all size and style are, like Piero
Manzoni’s ‘merda d’artista’, that detritus of a civilisation long dead and gone but whose futile life is unearthed by ar-
chaeologist Attard from some distant future. Rather than indicating life, these shoes, like the Boyle family’s Journey to
the Surface of the Earth, are the remains of man who is neither black nor white, but a grey that is too late for the gods
and too early for Being.

In the same way that Nietzsche introduces Thus Spoke Zarathustra with his undermining of morality by exposing its
non-moral basis and rationality by exposing its irrational basis, so does Attard use language to condemn it as a false
reflection and as a metaphor of the absurd. Unlike the true or possible regenerative reflections in Salina’s Lament or
Palestrina and Hell, Back to Babel presents language as a multiple and false reflection of a truth that becomes, literally,
beyond words. Attard condemns the ‘unreligious’ use of the word, in that it does not reflect the real, strives yet clings to
the sensuous and moreover, multiplies or divides it into a plurality of tongues. Even one single word from one language,
a jumelle, can have more than one meaning – it can have two, each meaning at the extreme of the other. For instance,
Pharmakon in Greek can mean both ‘remedy’ and ‘poison’, two extremes such as life and death. Here, the word is not
the beginning but the failed encounter of the human mind with reality, and this explains why Back to Babel accuses the
use of language without desire, without the movement towards completion.

In what seems to be a Pongean exercise, Attard tests the misuse of the word, the absence of any referential significance
and the passing along of the word in what Gabriel Marcel, in Problematic Man, describes as ‘the anonymity of everyday
chatter’ in the they-world. The word, supposedly the prime human vehicle to understand the world, becomes the other
extreme. Man spends his life in the world as if the world were Xu Bing’s A Book from the Sky, an installation which
featured hundreds of beautifully bound books and giant scrolls arching across ceilings and walls. The books and scrolls
contained 4000 unreadable characters.

Attard condemns the word as a bourgeois compromise which spreads untruth and establishes inauthentic existence.
Instead of mediating the being-in-the-world by revealing intelligible objects of use and enjoyment, it obscures them by
covering them with itself – the intermediary becomes the principal and the true principal is displaced. Thus language
becomes eikasia, the lowest form in the realm of illusion, and a terministic screen which, as Attard sees it in Back to Ba-
bel, is a false reflection that conceals Being. As it were, language is a grey matter and a matter of grey, another narcotic
effect of habit. It is a limbo of lukewarm days and mild content, in the unhealthy middle between extremes. It is the
prison where no choice is present, choice being the expression of two extremes – contingency and freedom.

In Breath of Mind, Attard conceives this prison as a cage contrived with wood and Korean rope, which from a collection
of spaces becomes, once the water level rises, a suffocating entrapment. Given the natural phenomenon that controls
it, the cage takes on the essence of a waiting room, where the preoccupation is the numbness and greyness of pending,
rather than the two extremes of neither arrival nor departure. It is the colourless zone which is terrifyingly represented in
Pascal’s prison, ‘imagine a great number of men in chains, and all condemned to death; some of them have their throats
cut in the sight of the others, those who remain see their own condition in the fate of their likes’. This is the image of
the absurd human condition.

Whereas Babel may have been the first human induced chaos, the 20th century was the first collective encounter with the
absurd. The same century also signals the time when humanity, no longer knowing with certainty where it comes from,
or where it is going, found its relationship with the universe transformed. For thousands of years man and the cosmos
were, to a greater or lesser degree, in accord, but since the eighteenth century they have been at variance. Western man
conquered the planet Earth and began an exploration of space, thus starting the end of the religious exaltation that comes
from a sense of identity with the universe. Can man exist while bound to the universe only by the dominion he attempts
to exercise over it?

In I See Red Everywhere, Attard replies in the negative by putting man and nature in an unhealthy and blind relationship
of extremes. The tree may be dead and swathed in an excess of red cloth, yet it still stands, dwarfing man and all human
conflict as a vain and tawdry thing. Moreover, the tree, in pure Christo tradition, is worshipped and religiously held in
the richness of red cloth, a medium of choice simultaneously fluid and weighted down by the recollection of the Maltese
baroque festas where cloth is the lair of the sacred.

In One Extreme to Another, Attard further explores this dualism between man and nature by contrasting the man-made
with the raw, the technological with the natural. In a gesture which challenges the communist ideal behind Christo’s ear-
liest agit-prop interventions along the rural landscape Orient-Express meant to portray an idyllic relationship between
man and nature, Attard places an unconnected, dead keyboard in the flourishing green garden of St Leonard’s School, St
Andrews, Scotland, thus showing the man-nature as it really is – locked in arm-wrestling instead of holding hands.

Choose a colour. Take red, for instance – neither an either nor an or. An unSimply Red, the prote ousia omnipresent as
the harbinger of a whole plethora of emotions. Not a period or a mood but a condition of conditions as can be traced
in the history of art, from the red figure technique in Athenian vase painting to the tragic dark red drama in Caravaggio.
Red in Rubens, a bloodbath of colour out of which spectacularly voluptuous bodies rise up from a sea of Baroque turbu-
lence. The shimmering summery red of the boy’s cap in Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières and the outrageous and lascivious
red in Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters. The blood-red Norwegian skies in Munch and the angry monstrous red Max Ernst
uses in L’ange du foyer. The red Christian baroque and the blood-red pelican sacrifice or martyrdom which blindfolds St
Peter’s dying eyes. Red is the colour of extremes which swathes the lumpy roughness of an ancient carved stone to the
smoothness of a precast modern block in Tu Es Petrus II. The red swathes in I See Red Everywhere which seem to have
drawn all the blood from a lifeless tree and absorbed it and the flesh and blood of AND SMUFF 2603. An ambiguous
colour, deadly and life affirming, sensual and excessively vulgar, decorative in the form of a hundred towels in a Valletta
brothel, hung in the manner of Richard Wilson’s 999 Chinese takeaway bags.

Extreme red, colouring the bed of daggers in Caravaggio, himself a painter in extremes, the demonic painting the
saintly.

In Caravaggio, Attard celebrates the Italian painter’s existence poised between extremes, the first painter to acknowl-
edge popular tragedies and religious themes, the popolaccio and the sans culottes of the back streets alongside bishops
and popes, the forerunner of light and shade, moral and immoral – in The Death of the Virgin he reputedly took a
drowned prostitute as a model. Even historically, Caravaggio was caught in between extremes, between the high art of
the counter-reformation and the domestic art of the emerging Dutch bourgeoisie.

Attard installs this acknowledgment by placing Caravaggio’s memory between the extremes of twenty sharp daggers
in uncomfortable rest on twenty soft pillows. More than placed, the daggers, halved in confrontational directions, are
enclosed under the pressure of glass, recalling the sheltering underworld that chiaroscuro offers. Yet the sheltering is
only relative, offering both the safety of candles, over-ripe fruit and damp washing waiting to be hung out the next day
and the violence, suffering and mortality lurking in the shadows or outside in the street.

All in the reflection of the ten mirrored panels the reflections of which seem to ponder what Hesse claims in his 1927
novel Steppenwolf, that , “man is an onion”, composed of multiple extremes – male and female, young and old, present
and past, Apollonian and Dionysian. All in the reflection of the shining blades spattered with blood.

Red is the colour of blood, of the menstrual cycle. As feminist poet Judy Grahn chronicles in her Blood, Bread and
Roses – How Menstruation Created the World, men fear and envy women’s capacity to bleed. They hold her in awe and
terror because she bleeds and does not die and becomes a woman. The blood of the male Zealot and that of the female
Cycle lie in a polar, extreme relationship. It is not the blood that men shed in hypocritical wars but the blood women suf-
fer month after month that creates, purificates and leads to the rebirth of the world. It is the extreme of Christ’s sacrificial
blood that Christians celebrate and acknowledge, rather than that spilled for the sake of Crusades and Inquisition. It is
the Cycle’s painful yet regenerative reflection that leads to salvation, not the Zealot’s doing the right deed for the wrong
reason. The Cycle female figure is healed through reflection and regenerated in a similar way to Kiki Smith’s fountain
Standing, a 12 foot-high woman with water flowing gently from her lower arms and hands. Uncannily enough, Smith
uses a dead eucalyptus tree for her sculpture, and Attard himself covers the floor of the northern wing of La Cabana with
dead leaves, which mark out the beholder and his position as a trespasser. Yet this regenerative promise is malevolently
translated into sin, as the digitally photographed female dips her feet into the pool of water and they come out actual and
blood-stained, transforming the female sufferer into the Zealot’s wife.

Like Existentialism, Attard’s installations are not concerned with points of school doctrine but with the recall of philoso-
phy to the existing individual striving to live in the light of reflection, literally. The whole life of Attard’s installations
is an epigram calculated to make people aware of extremes, and strive for salvation and maintenance of consciousness.
Indeed, while feeding upon the extreme tensions of the artist, they also acknowledge that creativity as a prerequisite for
salvation and survival.
It is art which acts as a cipher of all that is thought and perceived, and not merely a commentary on life. Attard wishes
to enact the religious search of identity and in the process gives an insight into the existential and salvation in extremes.
It is a religious search which takes in consideration the discontinuity between faith and reason, acknowledging that the
former is an intrusion into the life of the latter.

Attard’s installations are a search for salvation through extremes, in the process becoming objects of faith. Both instal-
lations and faith are aesthetic, the latter quality being the essence of immediacy, of what makes art strike the beholder in
the here and now, it’s tendency to attract or repel you. When Gauguin wrote about the supremacy of art over poetry, the
sole quality that he argued made art more potent than verse was the time it takes to work. Whereas a poem has to be read
from beginning to end, line by line, and metaphors have to be experienced one by one, art means everything it needs to
mean straightaway. Art, a painting, sculpture, installation, is complete from the moment you witness it.

Attard’s installations are the offspring of extremes, of the artist’s unique language formed within the few square miles
of Gozo yet pleasantly suffering the influence of a wider sea. After all, the Mediterranean itself is a source of extremes,
light and dark, sanctity and sin, war and peace, the desire to return home, the oikos, and the horizon, that contrast on
which the Odyssey, that archetypal voyage, is based upon.

Thus it comes as no surprise that Attard’s work moves outwards, from the island where Ulysses lay hidden with Ca-
lypso for seven long years, to embrace the tonality of wider influences, from the ready-made to the unorthodox, the Arte
Povera of Pistoletto and Merz to Koons’ pop veering towards the American Earth Artists. Its texture ranges from the
ancient and modern, man-made and raw, earth and steel, painting and film, an art made without restraints, an experi-
mental situation in favour of complete openness towards materials and processes. Yet there is one positively traitorous
single voice, that of Attard condemning and showing what lies behind the greyness of a man who flees anguish in bad
faith and frenzied consuming.

It is an art which can be both an advocate of faith or the precursor of doubt, since both faith and doubt, while being
extremes, are simultaneously parallel, both difficult to get to and impossible to go beyond.




Four artistic statements by Norbert Francis Attard
Tereza de Arruda

During his artistic career, Norbert Francis Attard has used many different media to produce a wide variety of work.

Each piece is not so much an isolated work as an individual element of a larger composition which not only speaks to
itself but also to its surroundings. This ability can be traced back to his roots as an architect and also be sensed in his
previous twenty years of activity as painter and printmaker. His own approach to architecture reflects the everyday hu-
man experience – that the conflict between space, form, material and structure controls contemporary existence. “The
here and now of a piece of art is reflected in its existence at the place where it stands. In the course of its existence this
first impression and nothing else will determine its story and how it is appreciated” 1.

In his art, Attard does not concern himself with copying nature or custom building objects per se. He is on a journey of
discovery in a world where raw materials offer themselves to his creativity. His task has more to do with the reproduc-
tion of objects which have been newly formed by Attard himself. In this way they are freed from their old function or
association, and have a new existence as a work of art, inhabited by a new aura which goes beyond its primary meaning
in the world of art. At first sight many of his objects appear unusual: the original form or predecessors provide plenty
of room for Attard’s ideas.

A good example of this method of working is seen in the installation “Zwölf Dialoge“ (Twelve Dialogues) presented
at Gozo in Malta in 2000. For this work the artist had 28 chairs made of Swedish pine built which, just as in a game,
could be combined in many different ways and acted as objects or witnesses reflecting human behaviour. The new
compositions embodied sculptures which were christened with different names: “Familie/Dreieck“ (Family/Triangle),
“Gleichgewicht/Konfrontation“ (Balance/Confrontation), “Gerechtigkeit/Diktatur“ (Justice/Dictatorship) for example.
The objects, realization of emotions, were displayed in the warehouse where the wood was originally stored – back to
the origin. These thoughts form the basis of his artistic interpretation and provide an aura to his works of art which is
continued in the new series.
His latest series Four Olympics was exhibited at “Project Artiade 2004” in Athens during the Olympic Games. The
Foundation Artiade intends to bring back to Humanity the essence of the Olympic Games. Its roots were known as
Platform for country representations not only in the sports but also in the art field, so that the different cultures could be
connected by the same feeling and impulse. In parallel to the Olympic games Artiade presented an art exhibition with
the participation of artists from the Olympic nations.

Four Olympics consists of videos, sculptures and photo objects: Olympic Kiss, Boat Race, A Bit of a Boat, and Footnote.
This diverse constellation was chosen to capture the collective feeling of the different cultures and ideologies of those
gathered in Athens during the Games.

Boat Race and A Bit of a Boat remind one initially of ships. On closer inspection the observer notices that these objects
are detached from their original function. Changes to the scale and to the surfaces paradoxically prevent them from be-
ing used as a means of transport. Attard gets his inspiration from everyday things and, as such, banal objects are born
again as newly created works of art created.

Boat Race is a monolithic sculpture that achieves its autonomy through its presence. Its open form resembles a skeleton
that appears to double in size through shadow play in space. Attard uses the organic form of his sculptures to investigate
new forms of expression of human behaviour and adaptability. Attard’s precise wood designs are reminiscent of the Rus-
sian Constructivist Vladimir Tatlin who experimented with environment-like space. Whereas Tatlin preferred vertical
construction Attard concentrates more on the horizontal.

A Bit of Boat is composed of seven different individual sculptures. The whole composition works like a theatre produc-
tion where each object takes on its own role. The work uses the ship-like basic form as a continuation from Boat Race.
The care and attention to detail transmit a warmth to the observer that serves as an invitation to explore the object or
to even try it out. With the smooth surfaces offering a perfect place to relax or lie down. Attard demonstrates the meta-
morphosis of his works by inviting the observer to become part of them. This self-portrayal works as a performance to
provoke new experiences. The parallels between performance and sculpture arouse an unusual sensibility with contro-
versial and unconventional characteristics: “This new approach throws up more questions than answers to the problems
of the relationship between art and reality, art and other objects and art and its manifestation. It is an attempt to capture
time and space, change and changeability in the moment” 2.

Attard has also experimented here using wood as a raw material to see how it transforms into a new composition. With
this process the artist is able to produce precise, highly aesthetic openings on the surface.

By using geometrical forms, like window openings cut into their surfaces, his sculptures take on a strong architectural
character. From inside and out they offer many different views that change depending on the position of the observer.
Although this group object is not meant to be entered, because of its experimental composition it works as a “Pendance”
to Daniel Liebeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin. This building is one of the most striking examples of harmonisation
between architecture and sculpture.

The exhibition space chosen by Attard for A Bit of a Boat is a small, closed and disused room in the warehouse. This
backdrop embodies the transience and abandonment of modern times. Attard’s paragons are the high-rise buildings on
the outskirts of cities that, despite their modernity, have been left to ruin. A curious parallel can be drawn to Attard’s
birthplace, Malta where old ships await their fate of death and decay. From this point of view the sculptures, through
their form and material, could be perceived as coffins. Sculpture in general is accepted as a metaphor for the human body
because of its size and volume and how it stands in space like the observer.

Footnote uses a contemporary symbol – a Nike shoe – to symbolize human cultures of industry and sport. It embodies
the modern day myths of speed and the future. The latest ads market this not as a product but as a motivation: “You are
faster than you can imagine”. Attard has produced this picture using a poetic text that plays with the development of
language and history of his country. The picture folds out like a screen which divides the space – an expression of the
tension between tradition and innovation.

The video Olympic Kiss celebrates a symbol of love with a kissing couple. This act demonstrates the inner human im-
pulse to communicate independent of background and language. This emotional picture is accompanied by a sobering
text giving statistics and research facts to the act. The tension between rationality and sensitivity symbolizes a universal
controversy. Universal symbols do not demonstrate identity of thought – this is also true for the cult symbol in Footnote
– but rather make up a collective that is formed from many different subjective thoughts.

“The key to a subject’s perception is experience not form; what Kant called formation, fundamentally deformation” 3.
The deformation of a picture or object must not be seen as negative, but as allowing space for a new interpretation or a
new beginning. The end should not be seen as the final word but as the starting point for the next experience. Even the
artist’s fascination for using an abandoned industrial building as a platform for the presentation of his work is a sign
of the new contextualisation of an existence, it turns the space alive through the new content. Through this attitude the
visitor obtains a combination of different cultural points of view to recompose his own experience.

A similar project from the point of view of duality between two existences was Beyond Conflict. It was done in Liver-
pool in 2002 during the Biennial. He involved the façade of the Oratory with red and green fabric creating a new bar-
rier to be conquered by the public: visual, emotional and especially spatial. Considering the fact that the Oratory was
used for burials this project received a second life. Another work, Container 21st.c. was produced for the International
Container Festival in Taiwan in 2003. It emphasizes even more this context through the powerful displacement of the
object/container also due to the fact that the sea water circulated from the harbour into the container as a sign of the
continuation of the natural cycle. The artist does not necessary produce his works for neutral white cubes but for direct
confrontation with people who make use of public spaces. The dialogue desired by Norbert Francis Attard happens then
in a more natural way.




The double frustration of painting
Adrian Bartolo

Appeared in The Sunday Times, Malta, 15th November 1998.


Norbert Attard has given up his painting vocabulary to venture into environmental and ecological art. Or maybe he has
not, after all. Adrian Bartolo reviews his latest projects in Germany and Korea.

Excluding Pablo Picasso’s 360-degree authoritative prodigy - having turned everything his fingers touched into gold -
and Jackson Pollock’s acrobatic act of painting, which mystified the irrational in this medium 20th century art has been
fathered by another monumental figure: Marcel Duchamp. The French artist harassed the New York art bourgeoisie of
the 1910s by exhibiting an enamelled pottery urinal, where a crass, ready-made piece, provocatively entitled Fountain,
was transmuted into a work of art. The alchemy stands in the context, the change in environment that elevates and my-
thologises the meek profile of junk into an aesthetic, intellectual challenge. Duchamp’s new art kept on sailing through
an important number of daring, happy cousins, but his legacy passed silently unnoticed in Malta. Or almost unnoticed.
There were some artists experimenting under-ground, but thought it to be too dangerous a business to shock, particularly
since they were still young. Others just decided to give it the cold shoulder.

Norbert Attard is seriously different. Of course, he is living in a different age, but he is also of an ambitious pedigree.
Together with a breed of up-and-coming young artists, he has decided to live his period and emulate the fashionable
philosophy of the late Nineties; the philosophy of an absence of fashion.

Art in the world is in a sort of cleaning process, with a total absence of a labelled art movement as much as of a clear
direction. In this period of transition, artists tend to come out stronger as individuals. And Attard is reading this moment
as an opportunity to venture into the never-tried-and-tested-by-a-Maltese, rather than a weakness due to an absence
of a prominent centre of reference. Without the backing of a chorus of artists and a manifesto, he still shouts loud for
consideration. Contemporary art’s nemesis lies in the nomadism, or the sense of travelling of each individual artist to
compensate for the lack of an art’s clan. New York, as much as Hollywood in the film business, is a centre of money,
and therefore of cultural vulgarity, at least sometimes.

Germany is the refreshing flagship of postmodernism, and Attard exhibited there last June with five other artists. The
environmental art project was entitled Transkutan, and its composition blessed the building of four temples on the pas-
toral hummocks of Munich’s Olympia Park. An Entrance was constructed by a German, whereas the Temples of Air,
Water, Fire and Earth were laboured out by a Korean, an Austrian, a German, and Attard respectively. The Dragon’s Tail,
or an exit from the twisting complex, was finished by another Korean, of course!

The empirically-sophisticated physiognomy of Attard’s temple consisted of eight right-angle triangles coupled at the
shortest perpendicular to shape out four corridors in a Latin cross format, the side-walls of which were made out of
clean-shaven beams of wood nailed vertically.The hypoteneuses of both triangles stood buttressed by a plethora of
selected pebbles sloping down to landscape into the park in the form of a circle 20 metres in diameter. The temple is
thoroughly consistent with the geography in which it sits, in that the geometry of the part-to-whole is complete, and the
work fails to act more potently than the social context, and vice versa.

The bias begins to loom when the piece is measured on its architectural qualifications or sculptural anthropomorphism.
It is excessively easy to interpret the large scale of Attard’s work as architectural due to its multiple terms of appearance,
the technical and engineering principles behind its creation, and because of the cheering interaction between spectator
and object.

Indeed, the temple provided the appropriate theatre-space for a number of performances, including a stunning non-the-
atrical happening by a Korean group calling themselves the Nine Dragon Heads. This, however, is not sufficient to help
classify the work as architectural, for its specific utilitarian function fails to be complete.

Attard has thus succeeded in creating a piece of architectural sculpture although, I hazard to say, it is not miles away
from being an environmental painting too, because as Pollock’s canvases - or environments - speak a flexible, sculptural
dialect Attard’s temple is a natural extension of his abstract paintings.

The analogy holds in that the most important decisions on his three-dimensional pieces are made in the studio, includ-
ing not only the design, but also issues of the process to determine the construction. Then, the temple is consistently
‘artful’, clearly arranged, and full of finesse, aspects of a consummate control in his painterly expression. The freeing
from painting is incomplete.

I am not aware how much the Transkutan exhibition was bound to arrive at a definition of God, but Attard certainly is,
albeit perhaps unknowingly. His circular temple indeed emulates a medieval definition of God, namely that God is a
circle whose centre is everywhere and circumference is nowhere.

Descartes and Spinoza later hooked onto this somewhat Aristotelian philosophy in their pantheistic writings. The defini-
tion remains formal, although the mystery and paradox is ever-present. And this is ultimately what makes a work like
Attard’s true art.

The Temple of Earth is thus more than a piece for rubber-necking, as much as his other important project in Korea last
August, where Attard was invited to participate in another ecological art exhibition entitled Breath. He produced a 2.7
metre square cage made of wood and Korean rope - discovered on site - rhythmically hitched around the wooden frame-
work with the help of improvised assistant - the curious and astonished folk from a nearby village. Their most friendly
industrial material - the rope - was for the first time being used as an abstract element in a work of art. The cage is today
a keepsake for the Korean contributors.

The powerful form was then made to sit on the bed of a soupy lake called Taechon, which has one peculiar, distinction:
the water level rose or lowered wildly and unpredictably. This, of course, created the magical and dramatic effects
within the structure since, although the cage is airy, when the water level rose, it was transmuted into a suffocating
prison. Like Duchamp’s Fountain, it is the geographical context that makes the work of art here, although this goes a
step further, it is site-specific, and ceases to breathe if transported outside the lake’s environment.

The cage, entitled Breath of Mind, is as witty as it is aesthetically beautiful, a condition that seems unnecessary and
inapplicable, but which Attard wet-nursed for maximal play of solidity against flimsiness and dissolution - or physical
decay - seen through the wrestling reflections of the imposing ochre structure on the green water. The physical nature
of the grained wood and the harsh rope equates in importance the first idea for the piece itself.

Attard is utterly seduced by the aura of landscape and its silent celebrity. His pieces concert emotionally and physically
with nature, possible due to their high aesthetic pitch, a constant and essential point in his art. The two monumental
projects are indeed another primary colour on his palette, and the frustration with painting is double in that the conver-
sion from canvas to sculpture and architecture is incomplete. For Attard, materials have a double life: form and colour.
This simply places his work within a comfortable distance from Minimal Art concerns with such monuments - where
aesthetics was an unquantified qualification - and gives more relevance and power to his evolution and maturity into a
complete artist.
Four Olympics
Stanley Borg

What are games but a race against that horizon of being which is time. On track, field and in water, insubstantial human
bodies attempt to set records and for one single moment, stop the tide of minutes, seconds and milliseconds from rising
further against life. Similarly, installation art inhabits a physical side and is connected to real conditions. Primarily,
installation art behaves in time, thus imitating an athlete’s exertion and commitment to record brief hopes of immortal-
ity.

In this regard, Norbert Francis Attard’s four installations are a Sein und Zeit, existential preoccupations with time. Like
an athlete, Attard feeds upon his tensions and shapes life in the manner of a game, a record to be set, a continuum of real
yet ephemeral experience which responds to the resolute conditions of time.

Olympic Kiss takes a voyeuristic look at the act of kissing and from the simplest, most ready-made act in the world
transfigures it into a strange yet familiar game. Indeed, the installation can be seen as a Duchampian shift from an ex-
pected consumer context to a new artistic space in time where kissing is played according to the rules, thoughts, fears
and curiosities of two lovers.

Attard further imparts aesthetic value to this everyday action through the quotes and unquotes which form the text of
Olympic Kiss. Thus, the kiss of welcome and of parting, the long, lingering, loving present stolen becomes a conquest
and a contest where the kisser becomes an athlete and the kissed a record to be broken. The text also throws light on the
act of kissing as an esse est percipi boundary moment of self-awareness, reminding us that we are both a subject armed
with self-knowledge and an object; an inverted visual experience where we see and are seen, reflect and are reflected
upon, kiss and are kissed.

In Boat Race, a boat laid bare is cast adrift in the sea of its shadows which reflect its shape and history as a symbol of
war, games and civilisation. Indeed boats have, from time immemorial, been instrumental in drafting maps and thus,
shaping our world. Across history, they have carried peoples and races to other countries for commerce as well as to
conquer and battle.

Yet the work is not simply deconstructive. The artist does not dismember the body, and you will find no fragments or
severed limbs of wood. On the contrary, Boat Race forces the beholder to intertextually reminisce the shape of a fish,
wings and imagine the outline of flight and space, if they had one. Neither is Boat Race destructive, in that it is not about
war but sees the Olympic Games as a peaceful battle between all nations.

Boat Race is also a theatre piece which carries out the prophecy that installation art is an escape for objects so that they
are no longer confined to their normal, passive role as instruments but acquire an independent existence. Thus, while
being static, the wooden boat is the essence of movement, a moving immovable whose smooth, flowing surfaces take
flight.

A Bit of Boat includes seven boats, smooth as the joy of a Brancusi sculpture, lined up for a race in that uncanny sea
which divides the sculptural from the functional, the aesthetic from the chatter of the everyday world, the object from
any shadow it may cast. Thus, this boat’s dovetail joints and squares are a reminder of eavesdropping windows and the
architectural lines of modern urbanism; the other one’s surface is a falling leaf; that boat’s flow rhymes the elliptical eye
painted on the sides of Maltese traditional fishing boats, the other one’s wooden ribs celebrate Phlebas the Phoenician’s
sensual death by water. ,A Bit of Boat also blurs the boundaries between the strange and the familiar, the present and
the past. Thus, water is no longer an abstract layer which supports but also a medium and a channel for movement and
transportation. The Mediterranean is returned to its former glory as a source of light and dark, sanctity and sin, war and
peace, the oikos, that desire for a return home, and the voyage away from home, a contrast upon which the Odyssey, that
archetypal voyage, is based upon. The boats recall the part they played in the rise and fall of civilisations, their essential
presence in the metaphor of the voyage as well as their ageless race against wind, waves and time.

What changes first, the world or language? The words in Footnote attempt an answer to this question by creating two
moments in time using a language, Maltese, which along years of conquest has suffered the influences of both Romance
and Semitic languages. The first moment in time tells of a fisherman catching words from the sea surrounding one of
Malta’s victorious maritime cities, Birgu; the second is an epiphany where victory goes beyond the words themselves.

Thus, both moments show language as concealment and unconcealment, and ordering process that either masks ex-
istence with its commentary or, being a cipher, reveals it. Like a question which questions its questioning, the words
in Footnote opt to giving intelligibility to the world and reflect on human culture as the product of a language which,
functioning within the realms of expression and representation, creates the human world with all its preferences, purpose
and history. Thus, the words in Attard’s installation act as jumelles, literally and figuratively: they are a footnote to the
signified and note on existence, all in the shape of a foot.

Attard, representing his country of origin, Malta, has been invited to create and exhibit these four projects by two inde-
pendent organisations; ARTiade NGO from Berlin, Germany and OLYMPISM-CULTURES from Paris, France. These
organisations were responsible for these two separate international art exhibitions which took place during the Olympic
Games in Athens, Greece between 12th August and 29th September.




The martyrdom of St. Peter
Quentin Hughes

First appeared on Norberet Francis Attard’s book I see red everywhere.


Tradition suggests that Peter was killed in the Roman circus on the order of the emperor, crucified between two metas
(inter duas metas) or pyramidical-shaped obelisks in about the year 64. Positioned at his own request with his head down,
he was nailed to a cross. Michelangelo, in the Paolina Chapel, shows an early stage in the crucifixion when Peter is still
fully conscious, looking up to watch what is happening as his cross is placed diagonally, ready for erection on the site.
But probably the most important and the most influential early depiction is that done by Antonio Filarate between 1439
and 1445, for the scene is formed in one of the lowest and most visible panels on the great bronze doors that confront
everyone on their approach to the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome. Filarete’s bronze casting shows the martyr suspended
in an equilateral triangle at the apex of the panel with, below him, the two metas (later called the Meta di Borgo and the
Terebinth of Nero) and the Mausoleum of Hadrian, later to become the pope’s castle of St. Angelo.

Images of the Crucifixion of Christ abound. There are numerous paintings from the time of the Renaissance. They are
almost commonplace, so that we accept the symbolism often without much thought. But visions of the crucifixion of St.
Peter are more rare, and thus more susceptible to fresh interpretation. Norbert Attard’s is the latest in a tradition and, in
many ways, one of the most impressive, for this one hits us like an electric shock. It confronts us with new attitudes. It
redefines and links to our past, horror, shock, and sympathy, feelings that, because of the immediacy of the transmission
of the visual scene in our present century, abound each day in our lives.

The colour red links this scene of martyrdom with other scattered images in the exhibition and is the artist’s liet-motif.
Red is an ambivalent colour. It is the colour of danger so that we react against it and pull back. But it is the colour of
blood that strangely draws us for basically we are a carnivorous breed that through the centuries has lusted in its spillage.
Red is the colour of rage and aggression. The red bands of cloth bind the dying figure of Peter even more closely than
those nails that pinned him to the cross and we achieve an empathy with him in his helplessness. The whole incident is
powerfully expressed so that we feel the agony within the tortured body. But then, faced by an image almost too strong
to bear for long, we turn away and face the two megaliths set side by side, one the reproduction of an ancient carved
stone, the other a precast modern block, and they too are tied by interwoven red cloth so that they are intrinsically bound.
What do they represent? This is hard to discern. One was obviously inspired by those ancient megalithic carved temple
stones of Malta, the other by the craze of modern man to build unceasingly, block upon block, building upon building.
for the creation of his megalopolises.

Norbert Attard’s modern interpretation of the theme places the crucified martyr between the two Corinthian columns of
an aedicule that might seem to represent the two pyramids or metas in the Circus of Nero between which he is thought
to have been killed, and shown on Filarate’s panel.

A masterly new choice of site for this very powerful sculptural group; Peter is framed within the aedicule at the east end
of a redundant Catholic church once dedicated to St Peter in Seel Street, Liverpool. The plaster is peeled from the wall
behind the head of the crucified martyr, revealing bare, harsh brickwork. Peter, his eyes blinded by the enveloping cloth,
his body hanging suspended between its folds, has been lifted from the cross and hangs there in mid air, propelled upside
down towards his heaven. The naked figure is stripped of all raiment, pinioned in mid-flight, yet inevitably ascending,
his feet reaching up towards the triumphal climax of the composition, the triangular pediment of the church aedicule. It
is a most powerful and moving portrayal.
Tolerancia de la ambigüedad (Tolerance of Ambiguity)
Orlando Britto Jinorio

English translation by Delories Dunn.

Dear Norbert,

          Yesterday evening, September 23, 2002, I found that the postman had left a notice in my mailbox to pick up a
delivery, and the return address on the form said “Malta”. Early this morning, after leaving my seven-year-old son at
school, I went straight to the Santander Central Post Office and, during the 15-minute walk there, my mind was flooded
with images, memories, and experiences from our Diaspora Project in Oviedo, during that autumn of 1999--all sparked
by the name Malta on the form. I walked the streets of the city smiling, amidst the solitude of the crowd that was silently
rushing off to work. These evocations associated with the name of Malta all revolved around a very intense experience
of work, shared emotions, and one continually present image: children and grownups, images rocking and see-sawing
on a wooden board. At the center, the fulcrum of this see-saw, a stairway-wall does not let us see the essential other
side, so we are kept constantly moving about, seeking a point of equilibrium. This movement, this coming and going of
our sense of balance, enables us to prove to ourselves that this other side exists; in sum, that this other reality, or reali-
ties, which we cannot see, exist. Without the other, without this other side of the wall, without this other side of things,
without these other sides of reality, life becomes arduous, difficult, lonely, and sad. At the fulcrum of the see-saw there
is a wall that is not a wall, but rather a screen that invites us to imagine, tolerate, and--why not?--share the other side of
things. The wall that is not a wall, but rather a stairway and a pathway that we can cross, and then see, from on high, the
multiple faces and facets of reality. Without the possibility of believing in, of accepting, this other side of the wall, the
balancing act becomes so hard to keep up that it caves in, is cut short, falling into the void.

Together with these words that I am writing to you at this moment, I can hear very clearly the disturbing sound of the
news: four walls in a precarious state of equilibrium, and inside, a leader, his followers, and an entire people with no
way of escape; the stairway does not exist anymore, it has been destroyed. Without a stairway, without a pathway, and
without the possibility of even wanting to try to make the effort to look beyond walls and barriers, co-existence and
even survival seem impossible. The state of equilibrium has been shattered, and everyone who consents to it will wind
up in the abyss. Once again, the Diaspora has struck us, and struck other peoples. It seems incredible, unreal, but it is
true--history is written day by day with deeper and deeper contradictions. Memory seems to either not exist, or be com-
pletely wiped out. The rest of the world listens, and waits emotionlessly for the chronicle of a foretold finale. What a
shame it is, Norbert my friend, that we cannot force our leaders to sit on your singular see-saw, a kind of stairway-wall,
a mechanical-artistic artifice for tolerance and peaceful co-existence. Those who still believe that creating art is merely
an aesthetic act are very mistaken, and very far away from where we stand. Thank you for bringing me back these
memories, and helping me to use your metaphors to reflect on our disturbing present times. Of course I want to take part
in your new book, Grey Is Hard to Find, and I thank you for your affectionate invitation, and that is why I am sending
you this letter, my text, testimony, and a wish: that together we can build new projects for a better, a possible, future.

With affectionate regards,

Orlando Britto Jinorio, Santander, September 24, 2002




The relationship between the architecture and installations of Norbert Francis Attard
Richard Carr

Situated on the outskirts of the ancient village of Gharb on the island of Gozo is a group of buildings that forms both a
holiday complex and the home, studios and exhibition spaces of Norbert Francis Attard. Originally trained as an archi-
tect, he has also been a graphic designer, printmaker, painter and photographer, and today has abandoned most of these
practices to work as an installation artist, both on the sister islands of Malta and Gozo and in other parts of the world.
This new role, which began when he created Earth Temple in Munich and Breath of Mind in Chonju, South Korea in
1998, came at a time when he no longer wanted to be restricted to two-dimensional images. It was also a time when
income from the holiday complex enabled him to travel, instead of sending work to exhibitions held in many parts of
the world that he seldom attended.

The need to travel reflected the recognition that, as an artist based on Malta and then on Gozo, Attard suffered (as have
all his contemporaries in Malta) from living in a backwater that was only just emerging from its colonial past. As a
result, much of his knowledge of 20th century architecture and the visual arts was achieved only at second hand. Fur-
thermore, more than 20 years of architecture (consisting of some large villas, a number of detached and semi-detached
houses and conversions, and the interior design of some shops), had also kept him island-bound. Thus architecture,
arguably the one constant thread in his creative life, was also abandoned, just as designing theatrical sets, posters and
stamps, making prints, and painting in watercolour and acrylic, had been abandoned in the past.

Indeed, the ease with which Attard has switched from one medium to another, and can work both three- and two-dimen-
sionally, led to his fellow Maltese artist (and lecturer and critic) Raphael Vella describing Attard as an artist chameleon
in The Maltese Independent on 5 June 1994. And these changes involved not only the medium Attard used. Many of
his offset lithographs made between 1977-83 were about labyrinthine walled cities peopled by ant-like figures before
they became the Mihrab series, which was based on the prayer niches found in mosques. These were described by
Dominic Cutajar as similar to musical variations on a theme. Then, when it came to Attard’s paintings, which began in
1977 and continued until 1996, the use of bright, acrylic colours on canvas, for example, echoed the colours in the Mi-
hrab series but was very different from the monotone palette seen in many of the earlier lithographs. Similarly, the way
the colours were often gradated and flowed into soft, abstract shapes was not at all like the meticulous and very precise
drawing in the lithographs showing walled cities and floating islands. These, arguably, did reflect Attard’s architectural
training.

Besides restricting his ability to travel, there was one other reason for Attard abandoning architecture, and that is that
the opportunities to develop new styles of buildings using new techniques and materials in Malta are very limited. Dur-
ing most of the time he practiced as an architect, steel structures were very unusual and space frames are a very recent
import. Instead, load-bearing structures used quarried stone and prefabricated slabs, and concrete poured in-situ or cast
in situ was often used for columns and roofs. In addition, strict planning controls govern the use of traditional materials
and dictate how the walls of facades should be designed. This means that it is difficult to radically change the design
of the exterior of buildings so that, to innovate, Attard had to concentrate on interior layout and detailing. One of the
attractions of becoming an installation artist is that it frees him up from such restrictions and enables him to choose
whatever materials he pleases - and to work in many different places in Malta, Gozo and beyond. Another is that he no
longer has to work as an artist within the gallery system. So, now that he has moved on to making installations, and
since installations are three-dimensional, do these demonstrate that he remains, first and foremost, an architect?

There is, of course, one factor that immediately links installations to architecture, and that is the character (and often,
the choice) of site. Just as what Attard might build is largely determined by the location, so the location plays a major
part in the design of the installation, though arguably an installation is less determined by its site. But even installations
may not be entirely free from the planning laws that sometimes bedevil architects: there are one or two by Attard that
have had to conform to fire safety regulations.

Perhaps the installation that most exploited its site is the one in South Korea already mentioned: Breath of Mind. Situ-
ated on an artificial lake whose water level constantly rose and fell by some 10ft, the installation consisted of a wooden
framed cage which acted as a thermometer, apparently rising and falling as the water level changed. This was analo-
gous to the expansion and contraction of lungs as a person breathes in and out. Indeed, Attard describes this installation
as his most site-specific.

However, while this installation brilliantly exploited the natural characteristics of its location, the same, though perhaps
in a more subtle way, was done by Tu es Petrus, installed in St Peter’s Church in Liverpool, England in 2002. The aban-
doned and partly derelict church devoted to St Peter has, at the east end, an aedicule with the legend, TU ES PETRUS,
on an entablature supported by two Corinthian columns, while in between the columns is a bare, brick wall where the
altar used to be. However, in the installation, the naked and red figure of St Peter is suspended, face downwards (re-
flecting the tradition that he was crucified in that way at his own request in about 64AD) between the two columns, his
position secured by red cloth that is bound around the columns and woven around his body.

This vision of St Peter is powerful and dramatic: the proportion and positioning of the figure is exactly right for its
location, while also suggesting that he may be being propelled upside down towards Heaven. So, since Attard is an
architect as well as a sculptor, one might ask whether his placement of St Peter in the church is, aesthetically, similar
to Mackintosh’s placement of a tall, black ladderback chair between two wardrobes in the master bedroom of The Hill
House in Helensburgh, Scotland. The chair, designed by Mackintosh (admittedly in a building also designed by him)
brilliantly defines the space between the wardrobes in a way that is pertinent to, and complements, the rest of the house,
just as Tu es Petrus does this in the church. And one comment might be that putting a sculpture (or a piece of furniture)
in a building, if done satisfactorily, suggests that whoever does this must be sharing the architect’s original aesthetic.
Sometimes, of course, the architect and sculptor are the same person (as in the case of Michaelangelo). But more often
not. And sometimes the architect and interior designer are the same person (as in Mackintosh and Frank Lloyd Wright).
But, again, this is not usually the case.
There are a number of other installations that demonstrate Attard’s response to an architectural space in a way that, argu-
ably, reflects his training as an architect. One was Larger than Life 1, created in St James Cavalier in Valletta, Malta as
a way of celebrating and re-interpreting the work of the painter Mattia Preti, who spent years decorating the cathedral
of St John in Valletta during the 17th century. In Larger than Life 1, the vaults of St James Cavalier were brought to
life by nine slide projectors, candles, battery-powered torches, and a 5.5 metre high motorised pendulum supporting a
monitor with video playback.

As the artist, gallery director, impresario and critic Richard Demarco has written, ‘Norbert Attard not only recreated the
spirit of Mattia Preti by celebrating his past achievements in Malta’ but celebrated ‘this manifestation of the Baroque
as a characteristic of the Maltese people in their everyday lives, particularly in their relationship to their wholehearted
commitment to religious ceremonies and festivities.’ Equally, it could be said that Larger than Life 1, and Larger than
Life 2 that followed at the Venice Biennale (also in 1999), were but recent manifestations of Attard’s early interest in
set design - and, of course, set design is nothing if not the manipulation of architectural space. Attard’s installation in
the vaults of St James Cavalier was the response to an architectural space that was itself dramatic, but he has also done
installations in spaces that are much more mundane. One was in a 19th century tenement near the waterfront in Valletta
where A Place Called Paradise 1 created references to a beach in one small room of a tiny, two-roomed flat. A beach
umbrella, a deck chair and sand (that was, in fact, sawdust) suggested a day at the seaside which might have been the
paradise dreamt of by the room’s former occupants, while largely hidden beneath the ‘sand’ was a quotation from Alain
de Botton’s book, The Art of Travel. As an installation, A Place Called Paradise 1 could be interpreted as being about
dreams. As an architectural exercise, it could also be described as a ‘conversion.’ And ‘conversion’ could also be used
as the description of A Place Called Paradise 2. In the same building and on the same level as A Place Called Paradise 1,
the second installation consisted of 100 bright red cloth towels hung across the void of the staircase. It was an incredibly
dramatic way of bringing to life a drab and empty space.

However, the first floor bar of the newly built Apex Hotel in the Grassmarket in Edinburgh provides a space that is much
more mundane, with none of the vertical and somewhat claustrophobic drama of the tenement in Valletta. Here, Attard
installed Love Is All There Is (also in 2002), laying words in red and in different sizes across three narrow and opaque
windows that obscured a view on to an inner service yard. The words reflect the fact that messages of all kinds are often
placed near bars, while the layering of the words, and the given shape of the windows, suggested computer screens on
which one message is superceded by another while the touch of a keyboard can change their shape and scale. Here, per-
haps, Attard’s installation is closest to the work of an interior designer. And an interior designer is just like an architect,
only he usually deals with a given space rather than designing the structure within which the space is provided.

One of the main characteristics of Attard’s installations is their multiple - and maybe ambiguous - meanings, the fact
that they can be read in various ways. This could be described as offering the viewer an opportunity to read them from
different perspectives and, by doing so, arrive at different interpretations. In some ways, this is also true of some of
his buildings because separate spaces are often punctured by unexpected windows (even by internal windows) and by
views that turn the experience of the interior into a series of interconnected events. It is as if Attard has not gone quite
as far as Frank Lloyd Wright or members of the International Modern Movement in destroying the box. Instead, he
has retained elements of the box which is then arranged or pierced in such a way that it no longer consists of totally
self-contained compartments.

Thus, in a small house he designed for his brother Renato Attard, the dark arched entrance leads into a hallway where a
small atrium bounded on one side by a staircase, and with glazed doors leading to rooms beyond and even a window in
an internal wall means that there is an explosion of both space and light. It is as if one had travelled through the narrow
entrance to a cave to reach an underground chamber of unexpectedly large proportions. A similar effect is also achieved
in a small, electrical showroom on Gozo, where the ground floor entrance leads to an atrium framed by walls pierced by
arches that give views to both the ground floor and the floor above. There, the inner walls act as balconies overlooking
the entrance to the showroom and, again, provide views to both levels.

This device of making a very dramatic use of space within tight confines was inspired, Attard says, by the domestic
architecture of Le Corbusier and Wells Coates (who used a mezzanine floor very creatively in his own flat in Yeoman’s
Row, London in the mid 1930s). It is a device which, in the 20th century, goes back to Baillie Scott and Frank Lloyd
Wright. And, when applied to Attard’s installations, it clearly applies to Tu es Petrus in Liverpool and Larger than Life
1 and Back to Babel in the vaults of St James Cavalier in Valletta. However, just as exploding space within walls can be
dramatic, so can confining space within walls, as done by Attard in Earth Temple. Constructed out of timber logs, earth
and pebbles, the temple has what seem to be paths in a cruciform shape which meet in the centre of a raised mound.
They look as if they might be leading to a tomb without an entrance. Or, were you to stand in the centre, they offer a
choice of four exits. Which one will you take?
Exploding or imploding space, or breaking into its confines to provide unexpected views, is one way of creating archi-
tectural drama, and another way is to make a dramatic use of different levels. This is done by Attard in his design of
a villa and its surroundings which is close to the terminal where the ferry leaves Malta for Gozo. Since the villa is set
on a hillside, he has created pools on three levels above the villa itself, water spilling from one pool to the next before
finally coming to a rest by a terrace at the back of the villa.

Here, adopting a layout common to Italian villas during the Renaissance, is the kitchen and, beyond it and towards the
front of the villa, the dining and living room, all arranged on an open plan. The dining room and the living room are
divided by a staircase leading to the ground floor containing the bedrooms and bathrooms. And, in typical Attard fash-
ion, the staircase is part of an atrium which allows views (and light) to penetrate the centre of the building.

Playing with different levels of water at the back of the villa is, of course, what Attard did when he designed Breath of
Mind, while manipulating views both vertically and horizontally in the centre of the villa is also done in Clone (1999) a
sculpture of angled and staggered sandblasted mirrors in GOZO contemporary (gallery) in Gharb.

Two other characteristics can be found in both Attard’s architecture and his installations. One is total control over the
design and the other is a high standard of craftsmanship. The former, of course, is easier to achieve in the installations,
where a design can often be completed without having to make compromises - whereas compromises, especially once
people move in, are part and parcel of the business of putting up and fitting out buildings. Nevertheless, there is one
project in which Attard has been able to combine these two characteristics without too much compromise, and that is the
complex he has created in Gharb. Consisting of leisure accommodation, his own home, studios, storerooms, swimming
pools and gardens built close to and incorporating an old farmhouse over some 20 years, it is Attard’s version of Taliesin
East and West built by Frank Lloyd Wright in Wisconsin and Arizona across almost 50 years or, alternatively, like the
fusion of house and garden created by Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll in Britain around 1900. And, like Wright’s
creations, the complex in Gharb is essentially organic, being put together as land and finance became available.

The complex has been created on a rectangular plot situated between two relatively narrow roads, with the original
farmhouse at one corner and the rest of the plot slowly wrested from the cactus plants which covered it. Beginning with
the farmhouse, which was modified and converted to provide both living and studio accommodation, Norbert slowly
created a new house with studios separated from the farmhouse by a small swimming pool that formed the centre of
what might be described as a garden room. Then, on the other side of the newly formed house and studio complex is
a smaller garden room and, beyond this, and reached through a door in a wall, are the holiday flats which are arranged
in an L-shape around their own swimming pool. This forms a third garden room. The complex is completed by a
driveway leading to Attard’s own, private accommodation which runs along one side of the holiday flats and an outer,
boundary wall.

The driveway is reached through metal gates whose design was inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, while the outer
wall is flat and bordered by continuous planters and the inner wall is indented by niches that have their own planters.
This adds to the interest caused by changes in light and shadow. At the same time, because an upper floor of one of the
holiday flats extends over part of the driveway, there is a progression from the entrance to the driveway which is open
to the sky to a section that is like a small tunnel under the flat, and from that section of the driveway to a final section
which is also open to the sky. However, even here, the view continues through the studio facing the driveway to a
small courtyard at the back which, again, is open to the sky. Thus the drama of light and shade is generated not only by
the niches along the wall, but also by the driveway being open, and then closed and open again, to the sky, and by the
horizontal transparency of the building beyond.

In his design of the gardens, Attard has Moorish (as in the Alhambra in Spain) and Renaissance gardens in mind, even
though a series of ‘rooms’ is also found in some English Arts & Crafts gardens. And each room is enclosed within
walls and placed at different levels of the site. They are intended to provide spiritual refreshment and be delightful to
the eye, and are filled with plants native to the region: red bourgainvillea of different shades, leonitus (a climber with
an orangery lion’s tale flower indigenous to Malta), climbers from the ficus family, the pink trumpet vine, lavender,
hibiscus, jasmine, oleander and others, plus the occasional thyme, rosemary and mint.
There are no vegetables.

The result is that the buildings in the soft, sandy coloured globigerina limestone are offset by the green foliage of the
trees and shrubs, the peachy red, yellow, purple/red and white flowers of the bourgainvillea and other plants, the light
grey concrete slabs and sand coloured gravel of the paths, and the green-coloured water of the pools. And these are
deliberately left without the usual stainless steel fittings (ladders and railings, for example) so that they are more a part
of the environment than an addition to it.
As for the buildings in this complex, although Attard has modified the farmhouse, and built the holiday flats in a tradi-
tional, Maltese domestic style of architecture (enhanced by the occasional change of level), his own home and studios
have degrees of transparency and dramatic changes of levels (with a mezzanine overlooking the GOZO contemporary
space) inspired by the work of Le Corbusier and Wells Coates already mentioned. Thus, while the gardens display the
intricate geometry of paradise beloved of the Moors, the complex itself is a mixture of street plans, building plans and
mind maps - of both physical and mental layers.

And then, when it comes to his installations, Attard’s use of colour relates to the plants in his gardens and, perhaps, to
his pre-occupation with red. This, of course, is demonstrated by all the installations featured in the book, I See Red Ev-
erywhere. The colour against stone also appears in Tu es Petrus in Liverpool, while the exploitation of different levels
has already been analysed. Then, there are installations which are also structures, as in the case of Musical Chairs and
Twelve Dialogues (2001) and there are installations which are transparent, as in the case of the glass coffin suspended
a few feet off the ground (Resurrection 1, 2000).

All these, arguably, are but manifestations of Attard’s approach to architecture expressed in another form. And maybe
they reflect the fact that, so great is Attard’s need to create (and equally great, perhaps, is his attachment to physical
structure), that making installations rather than architecture (or using other media like lithography and paint) is the only
way in which he can exercise the freedom, control and immediacy that he now feels he needs.




Norbert Attard’s grandiose view of Preti
Emmanuel Fiorentino

Appeared in The Sunday Times, Malta, 24th January 1999.

We rarely have the opportunity in Malta of assisting to installations as an art form - which is a pity since the nature of
the installation, when both properly conceived and put into effect, has the potential of discharging the creative talents of
the artist involved. In this insufficient scenario Norbert Attard is one of the relatively few local artists who have in recent
years opted to give this art from the attention it deserves, thereby exploiting some if its unbounded possibilities.

Having been invited to submit a work for the collective exhibition entitled ‘Reinterpreting Preti’ (currently mounted
at the Museum of Fine Arts and which was reviewed last Sunday), Attard came up with a proposition that necessitated
much more ample spaces than those provided by the museum’s Loggia.
He has, in fact, decided to utilise six largish halls at St James Cavalier in Valletta (still in the process of being converted
into out National Arts Centre) by way of translating, through the use of 12 slide projectors and a video, the baroque feel-
ing of amplitude contained in the works of Mattia Preti, but especially as referring to the Italian master’s transformation
of St John’s church into the splendid baroque interior.

The experience attendant on visitors to Attard’s installation, which is probably the largest example of its kind ever at-
tempted in Malta, and which is fittingly entitled ‘Larger than Life’ can hardly be expressed in words to justify the im-
pression it is bound to make. But as a start one can here mention its basic features.

After having scaled the cold and draughty flight of stairs into the entrails of the cavalier, you turn right into the conjoined
rooms, which are lit by the warmth radiated by red candles. These candles are the only element in the entire set-up to
which, to my way seeing it, the artist seems to have succumbed to what has now become a hackneyed method of lighting
dark interiors to create an atmosphere redolent of the mysterious and the devotional.

A set of red light bulbs on the floor are arranged in a way to spell the name ‘Preti’. Having made out the name, you have
the options of two different directions whereby to proceed. Whichever direction you take, the dim atmosphere invites
you to wander about in empty spaces with light effects staggered on walls and knocking on ceilings. It almost makes
you think of the general appearance of the Conventual church, with its bare barrel vault and smooth walls, before Preti’s
brush and design contribution to its sculptural efflorescence metamorphosed it.

The low passageways between the halls are lit in a couple of instances by projections of slides showing the actual side
gangways in St John’s in such a way that, apart from the illusion for the real thing which is created, one could almost
come to thing that the place itself had, since its construction, all this time been waiting for somebody to point out the
common elements that are identifiable with the church’s architecture. And with Attard, an architect by profession, and
who is therefore steeped in the manners of employing space as the lungs of the enveloping architectural morphology, he
has thereby proved to be the ideal executor of this process.

One of the great merits in Attard’s registration of this Pretian interpretation is that he has stopped short of explicitly
imposing his own ego on the character of the place. The fact that any changes which are to be sensed belong effectively
to the element of light, with its basic transitory nature, should speak volumes to show how the planning process was
concerned with minimising the overall transformation but at the same time managing to create feelings with the visitor
at the level of peering into the past through modern eyes.

The acme of the entire experience provided by this installation is reserved for the hall at the far end. Here a set of images
from Preti’s iconography are projected on the wall and ceiling, with the primary projection set to fall on a round-arched
wall which perfectly fits with the apsidal conformation inside St John’s. Computerised images follow each other in a
four-minute sequence, which terminates with the apse of St John’s containing the glory of the Baptist in the presence of
the Holy Trinity.

A significant feature consists of a pendulum-like device, symbolic of the passage of time, which supports a television set
showing in quick succession a set of video shots recording the various stages in a typical Maltese wedding celebration.
The pendulum swings in the intervening space between the point of the visitor’s field of vision and the wall.

Thus the idea is primarily meant to show, despite the intervening centuries, the continuity between Preti’s essence of
the baroque and the dominantly baroque festive character to which the modern Maltese race still conforms. The whole
suddenly takes a surprising twist as the imagery on the wall becomes distorted and is soon transformed into a vortex that
leaves the image of the Holy Spirit hovering in splendid isolation as the synchronised background music, provided by
the Hillier Ensemble and Jan Gabarak on the saxophone from a CD called Officium, fades away.

The feeling is of sumptuous baroque elation which embraces the sense of sight and hearing, but which more than any-
thing else taps directly into the inner spirit. Even as one is firmly seated on one of the two chairs provided, anxious to
assimilate as much as possible of the images and sound around, the feeling of being swept off one’s feet into the visual
vortex on the wall attains sublime moments. The entire manifestation eclipses the details in a way that the concept
behind the realisation of this astounding feat remains. Whether in the reverential silence of the halls, empty except for
the light effects, or in the climax to be experienced in the light and sound celebration in the last room, the sentiments
converge towards the vision of the sacred which Attard conceived, and managed to invest, in his reinterpretation of Mat-
tia Preti through the spaces at his disposal.




Five Works by Norbert francis Attard
Raphael Vella


A Place called Paradise I and II (2002)

First appeared in Norbert Francis Attard’s book I see red everywhere.

The idea that happiness is not a place or a thing found one of its earliest expressions in Diogenes and the Cynics. Dio-
genes lived at a time when it was still apparently possible to couple life and word in a tight embrace. His “doggish” ex-
istence, characterized by an absolute refusal to allow material things and power to play central roles, was the “signifier”
itself: Diogenes’ life was his philosophy incarnate. Today, it is doubtful whether it is necessary or even possible for a
thinker or an artist to refuse the comforts of a bourgeois life simply to be in a position (not compromised by contradic-
tion) to communicate this point. There exists a stronger possibility today that the artist will actually need to immerse
himself or herself in those comforts to produce a relevant and communicable critique. Intentional or otherwise, this is
the dominant paradox at work in Norbert Attard’s A Place Called Paradise (1 & 2). Like all artists (especially installa-
tion artists), Attard requires a place or site to work in, but the paradox here is that Attard must use a place to critique the
notion of paradise-as-place. In short, abstinence à la Diogenes is not an option for Attard. The basic requirements of
installation art do not permit him to sacrifice the topos, even though he wants to suggest that happiness (both subjective
happiness and objectively desirable eudaimonia) and topos are not interdependent. The nature of art (is this also its
limitation?) ties the artist’s work to a physical space; if happiness lacks a direct relationship to a specific location, art
must always locate itself (unhappily) within a space.
Attard’s installations take their cue from Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel. In de Botton’s book, two characters go to
Barbados for a holiday and end up arguing over their crème caramel during lunch. The moral of the story: that natural
beauty or material wealth are neither sufficient to keep conflicts at bay nor will they solve conflicts once they arise.
Quoting from the “wisdom of certain ancient philosophers who walked away from prosperity and sophistication”, de
Botton muses that the key to happiness can only be psychological, an internal rather than external problem. Perhaps
herein lies Attard’s way of coming to terms with the paradox mentioned in the first paragraph. If the key to happiness
is indeed internal, then the external must itself be internalized. Wealth must be transferred within: this is what happens
in Attard’s A Place called Paradise. A small, poor room in a dilapidated Valletta building is transformed into a beach
scene, complete with umbrella, deck-chair and false sand (beneath which a chapter from de Botton’s book, traced in red
letters on the floor in the artist’s own handwriting, invites the viewer to become a participant).

The public is surprised by this quasi-surrealist juxtaposition of opposites: the last thing you would expect to find in a
slum is a manifestation of physical bliss. This element of surprise returns when one looks at the far end of the room,
where a golden tap over a sink pours forth deep red liquid resembling blood, creating an image of waste. Outside the
room, one hundred red towels hang from gold pegs over the dimly-lit courtyard. The seaside is probably the epitome
of the external, with its horizon, its vastness, its currents, its open sky as well as its connotations of travel and distance.
Attard attaches this image of pleasure and luxury to the squalor of a slum interior. Barbados is within.

As de Botton suggests, we should not blame the weather for our misery. Of course, this image of paradise is not objec-
tive: paradise cannot be objectified in a way that would result in universal satisfaction or consensus. Nor can we escape
bad weather all the time: our joys and our disappointments always take place within a physical context, the body as well
as the site of the body in space. For the attachment to a place is not a quality exclusively owned by art or installation
art; even our moments of happiness are topographically and temporally situated. There exist limits even to how much a
person can abstain from life’s comforts. As long as life persists in our bodies, we cannot escape space. Perhaps this is
why we attach so much importance to the places of our lives. We might have no choice.


I see red everywhere (2002)

First appeared in Norbert Francis Attard’s book I see red everywhere.

Red is probably the most abused colour in the spectrum. It shocks television viewers when it makes a sudden appear-
ance at war scenes but returns to banality whenever it colours fast-food chains. The sheer strength and brilliance of red
make it the most ambiguous of colours: it can represent sexual passion or even maternal warmth and patriotic love but
it often borders on vulgarity.

Its multivocal character is probably a result of its “excessive” nature. Red is always “in excess”: it is always too hot,
too eye-catching, too partisan, too greedy, too painful, too noisy. It doesn’t ask politely for our attention; it demands it!
This is the essence of its vulgarity. Red refuses to be subtle. It doesn’t know when enough is enough.

The lone tree engulfed by red fabric in I See Red Everywhere stands at the other extreme. Without leaves and roots, the
tree is denuded, its death laid bare before our eyes. This minimalism is the opposite of excess. Here, we are faced by
the minimal visual and material requirements for a tree. The trunk and branches still resemble what once was a living
thing, but this tree is no longer biologically active. Alive, the tree would be a symbol of patience. Dead, it has ceased
its slow, organic quest for growth.

Swallowed up by that torrent of red, the dead tree nevertheless acts as a fulcrum. It stands balanced calmly at the centre
of that wave of violent colour, as though it were always meant to be there. It brings back a sense of order to the most
disorderly, excessive colour of all. Excess is balanced by lack; energy is balanced by the stillness of death.


Back to Babel (2000)

In the beginning God said, “Let there be one language”. And so it was. God created man, male and female, and gave
them each a tongue so that they would be able to speak back to him and each other, and call every wild animal by its
name. But many, many years later, long after the Lord had driven that first couple out of the Garden of Eden, their pio-
neering descendants settled on a great plain and agreed among themselves to build a tall tower. “Come,” they said, “let
us make bricks and use them to build a tower tall enough to reach the heavens.” So they set themselves to this ambitious
task, and the tower soon started to rise above a new city. The Lord was unhappy to see the vanity of man, and he said,
“Let difference descend upon the earth, and let the singularity of their language divide itself into a plurality of tongues.”
So the Lord confused their speech, and the people of Babel (as the city came to be called) started to speak many lan-
guages and were dispersed all over the earth. So it was; thus came into being postmodernism, and it was very good.

Which problem, if any, does Back to Babel address? Aren’t we still in a ‘state of Babel’, and haven’t we always been in
this state? Returning to what we have always been and will remain, despite the globalizing utopias of technology: what
kind of nostalgia is this? To dream of returning to the present, that is to the heterogeneous, multi-layered present we
occupy, even though the boundaries of our diverse cultural and linguistic landscapes have been invaded by what Arjun
Appadurai has labelled contemporary, homogenizing “technoscapes” – is this what the multi-lingual and multi-national
recordings, texts and projections of Back to Babel imply?

Perhaps, we should rather see in this installation a romantic refusal of contemporary versions of Babel – the Web, for ex-
ample. Web-sites and links in different, often unrecognisable languages ignore geographical borders and join the queue
on your home computer’s monitor. What do you do? You skip them. What counts today is not so much the democratic
co-existence of us and the others, the

good and the bad, the central and the peripheral; the most important aspect of information today is speed. What internet-
users want is to get to what they desire (and away from everything that is irrelevant) as quickly as possible. Yet the very
size of the Web, the continuous multiplication of sites, and its hypertextual format pose a problem. This is why we are
enticed, year after year, with the possibility of achieving greater speeds: to escape, as rapidly as we can, the frustrating
universality and ultra-tolerant nature of the Web. Like the all-encompassing collection of books in The Library of Ba-
bel by Borges, the globalizing, totalizing ambition of the World Wide Web censors nothing, but this also means that the
acquisition of knowledge is permitted only at the cost of having to navigate through a sea of sites of purely commercial,
dubious or minor interest.

Was Babel a blessing or a curse? But why should Babel be an either/or situation? Because it refers to a divine interven-
tion, and interventions of this sort can only be unequivocal? And is art unequivocal? It hardly seems so. Back to Babel
deals with the local as well as the global, and its video projections and crushed, multi-lingual newspapers refer to the
complex and dynamic relationships between the two. Fluctuations in the local are complemented by fluctuations in the
global. One must nevertheless remain wary of exhaustive, total systems. As Lyotard showed us, art is possibly the best
safeguard against this threat.

Was Babel God’s work of art?


Clone (2001)

Clone therefore revolves around the problem of identity and genetic identification. We know that contemporary clon-
ing techniques are capable of producing genetically identical individuals. But this genetic identification with another
individual (or individuals) cannot be counted as numerical sameness. Wittgenstein once wrote that “to say of two things
that they are identical is nonsense”. Two or more individuals can be engineered to look exactly the same but they can
never occupy each other’s place in the world at the same instant. Perhaps this idea will not provide much consolation
for those amongst us who are not so excited by recent advances in genetic engineering. It is still unnerving to imagine,
like a writer of science fiction, that those eyes looking back at me in Clone do not belong to me even though they are
qualitatively the same eyes. A world full of cloned humans would give a whole new meaning to the word ‘vanity’. It
would also ban the use of mirrors.


Borders (2001)

There are many types of borders in existence: geographical, political, social, cultural, linguistic, psychological, sexual.
A border delineates; it frames and separates simultaneously. It can also decorate an interior space, linking this space to
an exterior one. Indeed, this linkage is precisely the central paradox of borders. A borderline is an end and a beginning;
it is an end which shows that there can be no end. For something must lie beyond every end, the inner space overflow-
ing into the outer. Borders are therefore like a cyclic chain of ends, one limit making us aware of another limit and so
on. This is the sense of “to border on”: to come close, to resemble. It means that some overlapping must occur in and
around borders, that the other is always invaded by the same.

This doll with a world-map as a dress is truly a citizen of the world. She is truly “ecumenical”: she inhabits the earth and
wears it proudly around her (non-existent?) body. Indeed, her “body” is the earth, fragmented and re-stitched into a new
configuration without regard to real geographical borders. This puppet optimistically asserts: “Geographical borders are
the only borders we need (and they’re not that important either). Let’s not create other borders between us.”

What is her real identity? But the question is already misleading. To ask the question “what is” already implies an
unnecessary simplification or restriction of her identity. The same problem applies to the notion of “culture”, often
defended by ultra-nationalistic, misguided individuals against foreign influences. To defend a static view of culture
implies that culture does not change, that its monolithic design must remain unaltered in spite of changes taking place
everywhere around it. This recipe for cultural isolation is just as distasteful as a forced semblance of homogenization.

So this doll, this girl, this plaything is a globetrotter, wrapped up in world matters. Yet there is something almost per-
verse about this marriage of brown paper-maps sewn together and this (not particularly attractive) doll. Why a doll?
Yes, the “countries” in her dress break through traditional borders, resist the conservative urge to isolate themselves,
recreate themselves by permitting neighbourly, intertextual combinations. But why does this brave, new world become
the stuffing for a doll’s neck? Is somebody playing games with the world? Are we all puppets?




ORDER = CHAOS, The New Norbert Francis Attard
Interviewed by Raphael Vella, 1997

Occasionally, artists experience sudden shifts in their philosophy or working methods. Something just ‘clicks’ inside their
brain, making them feel an exciting urge to experiment, to search out different paths and perhaps, never to look back again.
A shift of this sort already took place some years ago in Norbert Attard’s career, when he decided to stop doing immaculate
prints of Maltese walled cities and Islamic prayer niches, and got down to some rougher, abstract stuff. Yet, two recent
visits to the States and a good dose of personal brainstorming made Norbert think twice even about his abstracts. As rest-
less as ever, Norbert now views his abstract paintings as being still too traditional, still too tied to conventional media like
brushes and canvas. He felt that he needed a change, not some minor alteration, but something which was not too short
of a revolution! He started working with wood, metal, fabric; indeed, there was no material which was too unorthodox to
be included in his new works. His three-dimensional work was not different enough to be unidentifiable: you could still
tell who produced them. And, just to see how people would react to his new creations, Norbert sent two works to a “Most
Talented Artist” competition at Art Addiction International Gallery, Stockholm in Sweden a couple of months ago, and
came off with a gold medal. When I heard about this award, I decided to meet up with the artist and talk about the new
Norbert Attard.


Raphael Vella: Norbert, your work shows off much more than a change in style; in my opinion, it manifests an important
change in attitude. Would you say that it reflects a knowledge of definite, historical changes in art or is it more of a genuine
change on your part?

Norbert Attard: Well, when I change something in my work, you can rest assured that it has been on my mind for the last
five years. It has always been like that in my career as an artist. On the other hand, I have lately become more aware of the
changes between the modern and the postmodern era, or between the industrial and the post-industrial age. This knowledge
of historical changes has had an impact on me, and I have also become aware that I have often been a formalist artist in the
modernist sense of the word. In modernism, meaning is incidental, while form comes first. Now, I feel that more impor-
tance must be given to the concept. But having said that, I still believe that art has to have a strong visual dimension to be
successful. Ideas can contribute substantially to our visual experience, but if there is no compelling image to look at, the
ideas are stillborn. The point of visual art is to be visual, although it can be about anything - you even can take a position
against the visual in art. The change in my case was more of a change in values. Before, I was limiting myself. It is not
that I had nothing to say, but I was interested more in the concept of “self” rather than the outside world. I could find truth
only within myself. If you think of Mondrian’s abstracts, for example, you have a minimalist spirituality before your eyes.
The same thing can be said about Rothko: his work is basically a discovery of the self. Inwardness.

RV:     Don’t you think that certain “postmodern” trends were already present in some early modern movements like
Dada - Duchamp, for example - as well as certain aspects of Surrealism?

NA:       Yes, that’s true, but I still think that the majority of modern artists were essentially formalists. Duchamp is the
father of Dada and the grandfather of postmodernism. Due to this fact alone he can be considered an exception. I find it
particularly interesting that he can be considered as the origin of postmodernism when most of his works, in particular, the
readymades, were produced before 1921. This placement of Duchamp as initiating the ‘post’ within the “modern” itself,
intensifies the chronological confusion embedded in postmodernism.

RV:      So you don’t think that your previous “formalism” was reductive, in the sense that it reduced painting to pleasur-
able forms and colours?

NA:       First of all, I definitely do not believe that by being a formalist painter one is reducing painting to pleasurable
forms and colours. I am even convinced that even decorative forms have meaning. My past works have always had a
strong sense of forms and colours but equally so they have an even stronger sense of being spiritual, a concentration of the
self and its inner life. I spent a good part of my life searching for truth and I think that my works reflect this journey of
discovery.

RV:      But don’t you think that there are ways of using decorative forms insensitively, like making use of elements of an
African mask without trying to understand its original context? Isn’t that almost like telling the African people, “I like your
colour, but you can keep your poverty”?

NA:        Well… but this is appropriation, using different elements for your own needs. It is also a recurring feature in
postmodernist art and architecture. I think I can use different things I find around me and then change their meaning in
my work. In my current works, I think that the visual, aesthetic aspect is still evident. It is very hard to shake off aesthetic
values, but there is also a definite shift in my work. Before, I used mainly acrylics on canvas. When I understood that I
could use different materials, the idea opened up completely new vistas for me. Even perishable materials can be used.
Permanence is not important; the idea is what counts. In the works I sent to Sweden, I used all sorts of material: a dirty
piece of fabric I normally used to wipe paint off my canvases, wrought iron, fibre board, bits of a palm tree, and I even used
words to create a kind of graffiti effect. Both the found objects and the words have been reconceptualized: appropriated
and given a new meaning. Every object has its own life or reality but when I use it in a work of art (as part of an installa-
tion, for example), I have altered the existence of that object. But there is a sense of vitality in using the real object.

RV:       Is the object still related to life once you have appropriated it? What I mean is that if you place a gardener’s spade
in a gallery, you haven’t only changed its meaning; you have also changed its basic function. It cannot be used as a spade
any more, it may cost Lm10,000 more than a normal spade and no gardener would ever dream of getting his new spade at
the gallery or even understand its placing within that context.

NA:      True. I still believe that the object, once appropriated, remains related to life. However, it can take new meanings
within a completely different context. Appropriation, like words, is a more popular approach and therefore makes com-
munication easier. This is why postmodernism gives so much importance to the meaning of works. Art is not reality.

RV:      Norbert, I’m also interested in the way you use words to give meaning to your current work. In one of your works,
you scrawled Order = Chaos at the bottom, which reminds me of a poster Keith Haring produced in 1989 which had “Ig-
norance = Fear” and “Silence = Death” written over it. Haring’s poster was created for ACT UP, an activist group trying to
increase people’s awareness about Aids. His picture and words were polemical. The same thing can be said about Barbara
Kruger and Jenny Holzer, whose wording always has a critical edge. Before, you yourself referred to the importance of the
social context, rather than an infatuation with the “self”. Yet, don’t you think that your own use of words is still somewhat
philosophical, rather than polemical or social?

NA:      Yes, that’s true of most of my works. I tend to be philosophical about art. I could add however that recently I have
created some polemical or social works like for example, the works called Hunters vs Conservationists and Drowning in
our own muck. As to language in art, this form has been used before by the Cubists, Dadaists and so on, but it seems that
what was prioritised in art was the image. What postmodernism did was to give equal value to words. For me, the words
merely complement the image: they have the same weight as the rest of the painting. Images provoke words in the same
way as words provoke images. They have an equal footing, like the so-called “opposites” I have always included in my
work. Order = Chaos, for example. For me, opposites can easily be equals. Order and chaos enjoy a yin/yang equality.

RV:      So words are forms just like images and forms. The French philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard recently wrote
something which reminds me of this: “A man takes his finger, a stick, or a paintbrush, plunges it into an oxide paste or an
ink, and draws some strokes on a support. Is he writing or painting? Neither one nor the other; this distinction will come
later”.

NA:     Yes, interesting. Which is the most important? They are both important. Is an image more important or is a word
more important than an image? They seem to be interchangeable because as I said before a word almost instantly becomes
an image and an image almost instantly becomes a word. It’s a constant shifting that animates this sort of activity. They are
both important. Sometimes you find that opposites are not really opposites after all.

								
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