molten steel sizzles in water in Malta’s pavilion for 2022 Venice Art Biennale

Malta’s Pavilion Hisses Melting Metal Drops For Biennale

A compelling, biblical story is laid on the present when Arts Council Malta announces the Malta Pavilion for the 59th International Art Exhibition of The Venice Biennale 2022† Entitled ‘Diplomazija astuta’ (Cunning Diplomacy), the work portrays Caravaggio’s groundbreaking altarpiece ‘The Beheading of John the Baptist’ as a continuous sculptural installation. Using induction technology, the kinetic artwork conjures up molten steel droplets that fall into pools of water, which then hiss and disappear into the darkness, creating a visual and physical impact for anyone walking through today’s brutality.


(above) Diplomatijza astuta/Cunning diplomacy in front of the Malta Pavilion at the 59th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia. ⒸAgostino Osio, alto piano

(banner) the installation is composed by Keith Sciberras and Jeffrey Uslip. ⒸAgostino Osio, alto piano

all images courtesy of Malta Arts Council

From noetic to metaphysical references and from year 1608 to 2022, Arts Council Malta presents the Pavilion’Smart diplomacy for the Biennale Arte 2022† The installation, curated by Keith Sciberras and Jeffrey Uslip, situates Caravaggio’s artwork ‘The Beheading of St. John the Baptist’ in modern life. In a dark, mystical atmosphere, the viewer is urged to traverse a space where the tragedy of the biblical performance is lived in the present.

‘This extraordinary and timely installation – an invention of the creative collaboration between our curators and artists – produces a Malta Pavilion that combines what is said to have passed with that which is still unfolding. Diplomazija astuta creates a palimpsest that operates uniquely within the realms of Caravaggio’s altarpiece and contemporary Maltese visual culture,’ notes Albert Marshall, the Executive Chairman of the Arts Council Malta.

molten steel sizzles in water in Malta's pavilion for 2022 Venice Art Biennale
‘Diplomazija astuta’ commemorates Caravaggio’s groundbreaking altarpiece ‘The Beheading of John the Baptist’. ⒸAgostino Osio, alto piano

the melted decals echo with the haunting music

Arcangelo Sassolino’s kinetic installation reverberates molten steel droplets falling from a structure overhead into seven basins of water, each representing a subject in ‘The Beheading’. On contact with the water, the bright orange embers hiss, cool and disappear into the shade. To accompany the haunted room, musician Brian Schembri composed a hymn that rhythmically follows the timing and frequency of each drop, while Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci’s incisions into the installation itself (a sculpted ciphertext) suggest a daunting salve that embeds captivating knowledge into the work.

molten steel sizzles in water in Malta's pavilion for 2022 Venice Art Biennale
Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci’s incisions into the installation itself represent a discouraging ointment that anchors elusive knowledge. ⒸAgostino Osio, alto piano

the pavilion refers to the political complexity of modernity

By displaying the artwork in a contemporary sculptural language, the artists attempt to resonate with current world events that reveal humanity’s failures. Deception, media manipulation and the weaponization of ideas embody the present time in the form of melting steel; in other words, humanity’s ability to self-destruct, only to create space for a new advancement.

“With the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals at the forefront of our minds, this iteration of the Malta Pavilion shows how art can represent the ideologies and ideals of society. Our Malta project presents a transcendent cultural experience where spectators envision a path to reconciliation; it gives us great pride to showcase this striking project at one of the largest exhibitions of contemporary art in the world,’ states – Dr Owen Bonnici, the Minister of National Heritage, Art and Local Government.

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