Open minds and ears to the ground | Fabrizio Ellul

Teodor Reljic speaks to artist Fabrizio Ellul, whose newly-opened exhibition ‘What Comes After the 1 Minute of Silence’ will use digital drawings, video art and panel discussions to examine the consequences of terrorism in Europe

Fabrizio Ellul
Fabrizio Ellul

How did you hit upon the idea for the exhibition, and why is the ‘one minute silence’ your starting point?

This is my first solo exhibition in some eight years. It took some time to come up with a personal project. But it was also a good timescale to listen to what others were saying. There is so much information out there, and so easy to create information through social media platforms, that at times you forget to listen. Everyone seems to want to participate in conversations but very few are interested in taking the time to listen. 

I want to make sure that I am putting forward a decent argument or at least something interesting.

For this exhibition, I am trying to understand what comes after that one minute of silence of grief and mourning. As my friend and artist, Caesar Attard once told me: “The role of the artist is not that of finding solutions but that of questioning.”

So, let us put this question out there and see what comes from it. 

What kind of conversation do you think we need to have about terrorism in Malta, and how do you think local artists can adequately address the phenomenon in a way that’s cogent and relevant to our immediate environment?

Malta now forms part of a larger community so any conversation that takes place needs to have a broader context. As from the 1 January, Malta will have the Presidency of the European Union, the biggest political project post WWII. This project is under considerable strain from a number of sources. It will be a very important year for the EU and we should not underestimate Malta’s role in this discussion. For sure, terrorism will be one of the topics high on the agenda. 

'Fly' by Fabrizio Ellul
'Fly' by Fabrizio Ellul

Terrorism in Europe is nothing new. In recent memory, the UK went through a period of terrorism. Spain and Italy too. They had to deal with some terrifying periods of their own. It just takes different forms. Today it has a very particular form and is having an impact on a number of communities and how we are perceiving each other.  

I think it is only natural to be overwhelmed by emotions especially when faced with scenes of destruction and despair. But this is the moment to keep a clear head. To reflect, understand and find proper solutions. For sure one thing that we have learnt from this experience is that the bonds that keep us together are more fragile than we thought, or we never bothered much with them. This is an area that we need to work on. 

Malta is now in a unique position to direct this conversation. The kind of choices that we will make now will define how we and the future generations will live. Artists need to participate in this conversation. In which format, that I do not know – that is something that everyone needs to figure it out for themselves. 

What are some of the direct and tangible concepts and materials you will be employing to get your message across for this particular exhibition, and why did you choose these media over others?

The exhibition is curated by Matthew Attard. He did a very good job in giving shape to some of the ideas behind the exhibition. 

If we agree that art is a form of communication then we can agree that each medium, being a drawing, painting, or a video is a vehicle with which you can best express your argument. At times this is best expressed through a painting, other times through an installation and other times through a video.

You need to ask yourself what do I need to bring out? What is the best medium to do it effectively? You will find limitations with everything, even within yourself. You might realize that you might not be able do something on your own and you would require some assistance in articulating your argument better. This is what Matthew did. I feel he provided his experience in helping with making the most of the works.   

How do you think the ancillary events tied to the exhibit will help to flesh out the themes of the exhibition?

Untitled artwork by Fabrizio Ellul
Untitled artwork by Fabrizio Ellul

Sometimes visual arts are not enough to carry the argument. Sometimes you need to bring in some people and ask them some questions, because, well, you cannot do that in a drawing or painting. I am having a panel debate on January 25 which I am hoping will engage further the public. I am also hoping that debates will further become part of exhibitions, especially if they are carried in a centre for creativity. 

The St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity – now known as ‘Spazju Kreattiv’ – which will be hosting the exhibition, has undergone a change in both creative and administrative direction over the past couple of years. Why did you choose this venue for your exhibition, and do you think it provides an adequate forum for the themes you’d like to put across and explore?

The Centre has gone through a number of changes. Now it is more structured with a number of focal points. I think, in terms of internal structure, it is much better than how it was before. My proposal was selected as part of the Spazju Kreattiv’s new season. So I am quite excited to have it running during Malta’s EU Presidency. I feel that the Centre can and should offer a forum for such themes and discussion. There is room to expand further and I think there is space for it.

On the other hand, funding will however remain the main challenge for many artists in Malta, especially smaller individual projects such as this. I do not think that small projects without funding will remain sustainable on the long run. 

What do you hope that people will take away from the exhibition?

We are living in an age where there is an abundance of information for people to consume. So I feel it is very challenging to propose something that will clear some space and occupy one’s attention for a while. If I can manage to do that, then I’ll be happy. If I can manage to have people trying to find an answer to the exhibition’s question, then I think the exhibition would be a success.

What Comes After the 1 Minute of Silence will be on display at Spazju Kreattiv at St James Cavalier until February 5