The dichotomy between the two theories of spectators once involved taking a position. The active spectator in art regimes is quasi non-existent. That being said, no one dares to question such commonplace. Something About You, an ongoing exhibition currently held at Blitz in Valletta, commemorates artist Marinella Senatore’s ten-year survey exhibition. The works act as a proposition and challenge in exposing the spectator, to putting them in the limelight. It is all about the endless possibilities for their engagement in the arts. With the curatorial skills of Sara Dolfi Agostini, the visual and spatial experience of Senatore’s works, lay bare the potential for change.
Senatore’s principal focus is uniquely conceptual. The works create a safe space between both artist and spectator to resemble a dialogue; a conversation that emancipates growth and awareness. Senatore’s dedication to the concept stems from her musical and artistic background. After studying at the Academy of Arts in Naples, practicing the violin at the Conservatory in Avellino, and qualifying as director of photography at Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome, the multidisciplinary artist’s element of interest lies in exploring and seeking harmony within the phenomena of a pluralistic form. Ingeniously, the project creates communities coming from diverse backgrounds. By at times defying the construction and labeling within systems, Senatore seems to also target artists, institutions, or those alike, as to question their hierarchical denote. In the world Senatore has created, those high on the social ladder are asked to take a step back. Instead, the enabling of an assembly takes place. The assembly is so powerful, that some works cannot be worked on in a studio space alone.
A range of materials that make up installations and sculptures, drawings, and videography, constitute a socio-political endeavor. A rendered sculpture situated on the ground floor is The Protest Bike (2016-2018). A bicycle is a cheap vehicle that permits an easy solution for a person to show up and elude when necessary. The bicycle has been and still is associated with many protests. Evidently, bicycles are notorious stamps for political activity because of bikers’ long record throughout history. Authorities simultaneously are known for trying to regulate and repress the protest bike trend. A simulation of a low rider bike took off as an idea from the happening of the Critical Mass in 1992. The bicycle represents an emblem of freedom. Attached to the sculpture, is a megaphone, an audio player, and a voice recorder. These apparatuses are purposely present to state the probable empowerment of communities, who should have a voice and a place in public spaces.
Other thought-provoking works, like that of the fabric banners, are framing statements or questions. These socio-political terms reveal our everyday use of the English language and aim to enhance social interconnectedness. The fabric used from recycled materials takes centre of the space on the first floor where spectators are encouraged to freely navigate around them. An unusual kind of set-up, the works mimic a performance act. The viewers, as of circumstance, are inspired to feel like participants.
Additional noteworthy projects that are based on Senatore’s vision of the pluralistic form, are that of Rosas (2012) and The School of Narrative Dance (2012 – ongoing). Both video productions heavily reflect an interchange of roles, where participants as part of the video, were motivated to take charge. For Senatore, it is not about the ability of the individual to “know-how” to perform a task, but rather it is about this non-competitive integration. Rosas depicts a video of an opera with three acts where contributions had amounted to twenty thousand persons. On the other hand, the video of The School of Narrative Dance was an exercise holding great significance on individualistic expression. The dance portrays an assembly as taking up a certain space. Both free-of-charge projects were initiated by Senatore with the help of other professionals.
And although the works mentioned thus far have revolved around the effect of a community’s togetherness, in Bodies in Alliance/Politics of the Street (2019), Senatore focuses on singular identities. Collaborating with Pussy Riot on a trip to Johannesburg, and working with this Russian protest pop-punk movement, together, they brought attention to the topic of discrimination. Specifically, LGBT+ communities. Where the street in the previous works mentioned might have symbolized a measure of uniting, such discrimination, found in both Russia and South Africa, part the people due to prejudice.
With such an idiosyncratic exhibit at Blitz, an additional surprise to the public that encapsulated the entirety of this project was the artist’s red, light installation. Placed on the building of Casino Maltese in St. George’s Square, it is the perfect place to bring spectators of all kinds to assemble. Remember the first time you saw your name (2020). The objective of such a work is to bring the Maltese people to identify and reminisce on their cultural customs. A claim lighting up the scenery, particularly at night-time, evokes the Maltese to reflect on their own local experiences, whatever those might be.