EventsPlace HackingTopics

Martinha Maia in Gozo – Malta 2024

The Portuguese visual artist Martinha Maia will travel to Gozo this summer to participate into Beyond What Drifts Us ApartBWDUA – in the frame of  the Mahalla Festival and a residency program by MagiC Carpets.

MagiC Carpets is a “Creative Europe” platform uniting 21 European cultural organisations that create opportunities for emerging artists to embark on journeys to unknown lands to create, together with local artists and local communities, new works that highlight local specificities.

BWDUA will take place between July 19 and July 28 at the Dwejra-Tower in Gozo.

Martinha Maia will stay in Gozo for this residency for one month and prepare her new site-specific work in cooperation with local communities like the fishermen of Gozo.

Beyond What Drifts Us Apart is curated by Elyse Tonna, organized by Unfinished Art Space in cooperation with the Istanbul based cultural association Diyalog with a financial support by the Arts Council Malta.

Claudia Melo – from the MagiC Carpets partner organisation Ideias Emergentes nominated Martinha Maia for the participation in the residency at BWDUA in 2024.

Talking with Martinha Maia – interview by Lea Cordani

Could you tell us about your journey and your focus as an artist?

I began working with performance, installation, drawing, and video in 2000, right after finishing my university studies. My work is deeply concerned with the concept of the skin as a frontier. I explore the body and delve into questions about what the skin represents—whether it’s a boundary, an interior, an exterior—and the politics surrounding these concepts. Being a female artist, a woman, and a feminist shapes my perspective significantly.

My work spans various mediums and themes, but it always centers around dualities: private vs. public, inside vs. outside, the communication between the world and oneself. These frontiers can be both open and closed, which is a recurring theme in my art.

So, you mostly work with performances?

Yes, mostly performances. I use video to document these performances and sometimes create videos from small actions to convey specific ideas. In recent years, I’ve focused more on drawing and paper, and over the past four years, I’ve been working with fiber textiles. This shift might be linked to my childhood experiences; my parents owned a construction materials company, so I grew up around these materials. I’m familiar with them, and they evoke memories from my past, which influences my choice to use them in my work.

Can you give an example of a performance that was particularly significant to you?

Sure. In 2004, I did a performance called “Fatos” (which means “suits” in English). I created ten suits that symbolizes protection but also restricted movement. You can see this performance on my website. It was a significant piece for me because it marked a transition from being a student to taking my work seriously as an artist. It was a kind of ritual passage for me.

During that time, political issues in Portugal, such as debates over women’s rights and feminism, influenced my work. There were attempts to roll back freedoms like the right to abortion, and these issues resonated deeply with me as a female artist. Additionally, there were challenges related to transphobia and colonialism, which also impacted my artistic concerns.

What drives your artistic practice? Is it feminism, or something else?

Feminism is a major influence, but my work is also driven by various issues that arise over time. I love poetry, and some of my works have a poetic rather than a political tone. My approach is often intuitive; I sometimes create without fully understanding why, and through this process, I discover ways to express myself. This exploration can be more about sensibilities and personal expression rather than a clear, rational explanation.

Have you read the concepts of the exhibition? How do you see your work relating to the exhibition’s theme?

Yes, I think my work aligns well with the exhibition’s focus on connections and community. For example, I created a sculpture using a net, which embodies the tension between opposing forces and the need for balance. This idea of finding the right tension to maintain stability is similar to diplomacy and dialogue, which are crucial in addressing contemporary geopolitical issues. My work reflects these themes of connection and balance, resonating with the exhibition’s goals.

So, you’re saying that we need more connection and diversity in our world?

Exactly. It’s not about good versus evil; both sides have elements of both. The problem arises when people see themselves as entirely good and the other as entirely evil, which prevents meaningful dialogue. Extreme ideas on both sides create a lack of space for conversation and understanding, which is something I’m deeply concerned about and try to address through my work.

Could you explain your perspective on the relationship between mental and intuitive aspects of your work?

Drawing engages the mind, but it’s also about embracing the unpredictable. I love when unexpected things happen because they are beyond my control.

You mentioned your statement is about feminism. Can you elaborate?

Absolutely. In Portugal, we have a strong tradition of religion, which shapes our societal mindset. This often creates challenges for women, who remain somewhat invisible and face ongoing struggles. These issues stem from our Judeo-Christian heritage and Greco-Roman cultural influences, which have perpetuated misogynistic policies. It’s an ongoing battle for women to ensure we aren’t subjected to violence and oppression. This struggle is tied to intuition because it’s something deeply felt in our bodies that we need to express.

Have you read the concepts of the exhibition? How does your work relate to the theme of the exhibition?

Yes, Elise explained the concept to me. The idea revolves around establishing connections rather than blocks. We’re working with towers—Torre Vigia—that historically controlled territories, which is relevant to current geopolitical situations. It’s very contemporary and timely.

Elise chose my work because of a sculpture I made with a net. This piece explores the balance of opposing forces, similar to political tensions and relationships. Finding the right tension is crucial; push too hard, and it breaks. This concept is akin to diplomacy and dialogue, which are essential yet often lacking in today’s polarized world. My work reflects these struggles and emphasizes the need for dialogue over division.

So, you’re saying we need more connection and diversity because things are too binary now?

Exactly. I don’t believe in pure good or evil. Both coexist, but extreme perspectives hinder dialogue, leading to violence and intolerance. This affects the most vulnerable—women and children—in various contexts, not just wars but also in impoverished regions. Many of these problems stem from Western policies.

Do you work with communities to address these issues?

Yes, understanding community perspectives is vital. For instance, in Portugal, men fish while women manage homes and logistics. This dynamic is similar in Malta. Women’s unseen labor maintains the balance. I want to highlight this invisible force in my work, using nets as a metaphor for tension and balance. Working with fishermen was actually one of my initial ideas. But my work evolves based on what I observe and feel is important at the moment. I discuss these ideas with Elise, and they may change over time.

One thought on “Martinha Maia in Gozo – Malta 2024

Leave a Reply