journal quotiden Maltais

Contemporary art in dialogue with violence

Article published on 27 November 2011


In today’s increasingly precarious social and economic environments overwhelming violence and terrorism are more and more present everywhere around us (World Trade Center attack in 2001, shootings at Columbine High School in 1999, deadly hostage-taking in Beslan, North Ossetia, Russia, to name but three).


Add to that the recent tsunami disaster in Indonesia in 2004, the volcano ash cloud in Eyjafjöl, Iceland that paralysed airports all over Europe and the latest disaster in Japan – not to mention the current social revolution in the Arab countries. When we consider the events that pummel our everyday lives on a daily basis, it is clear that we are experiencing rather violent times.


Baptiste Debombourg’s work seeks to come to grips with this environment and offers a multimedia reflection on the violence that is fed to us through the news.


Faced with this rise in violence, it is clear that human expression is becoming more and more radical in its various forms. With social networking communication today is fast and allows the exchange of ideas. It also helps shape our outlook on the world we live in...


‘Contemporary Art in Dialogue with Violence’ is the theme of the next session of the Contemporary Art in dialogue with...series of public lectures organised by Raphael Vella. During this session, French artist Baptiste Debombourg will present his research and his work on this subject.


When and in what context do artists draw inspiration from this violence and appropriate it? How do they transform it into creative energy? What is the difference between defending a cause or expressing an idea or concept, and the notion of committed art?


Interested members of the public will have the opportunity to discover the many achievements produced by this influence through an illustrated presentation and an open discussion with the audience.  This session will take place on Tuesday 6th December at 7pm in the Music Room, St James Cavalier, Valletta.  Attendance is free of charge.  The event has been sponsored by the Malta Arts Fund and St James Cavalier.


Aux Armes:

Baptiste Debombourg

and Raphael Vella


Aux Armes is a unique event that opens on 9h December and presents two artists side-by-side in the Upper Galleries of St James Cavalier in Valletta. It is not a coincidence that the site - a historic military cavalier built by the Knights of St John to defend the new city of Valletta and later transformed into a creative cultural hub - is being used for an artistic project that bridges the work of a Maltese artist and a French artist working in the 21st century. Aux Armes is naturally a clarion call, a political statement replete with a kind of patriotism that is viewed with some irony in the West and yet has recently been revived with a great deal of earnestness in the Arab Spring. Aux Armes is about the appropriation of political statements and monumental forms that perhaps have lost some of their power in Western societies, about architectural forms that compartmentalise life and transform themselves into treacherous weapons, and about the innocent and anonymous faces of children who grow into political leaders who lose their anonymity (and perhaps their innocence).


Baptiste Debombourg will be showing a monumental installation that appropriates the classical lines of the Triumphal Arch but banalises it at the same time by building it out of cardboard. His drawings “Tradition of Excellence” create a visual pun by linking two borrowed forms: the outline of firearms used in the twentieth century to kill thousands, possibly, millions of people, and ground plan drawings that we are accustomed to seeing in architects’ offices.


Raphael Vella is a Maltese artist who has shown his work in various international contexts and has also curated international exhibitions.


In Aux Armes, Vella is showing two series of drawings that produce various lines of convergence with Debombourg’s work. His “Big Boys” series shows little children whose real identity is hidden behind the veil of childhood. The portraits are based on old photographs of boys who went on to become famous religious leaders, politicians, even terrorists. These works have recently been shown at the Nakagawa Gallery in Tokyo . The second series shows women clad in burkas: images appropriated mainly from internet sites that sell the burka as an item of fashion. A sense of irony permeates the two series of drawings: both men and women wear veils.


Aux Armes is being sponsored generously by St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity and by the Malta Arts Fund