Artists Trevor Borg and Vince Briffa have been invited by the curatorial team of the (Under) Mining Art Research Project to research and create a work for the traditional mining village of Kalavasos in Cyprus, engaging with its mining heritage, community, and landscape. Both artists have considerable experience in similar international projects, having also represented Malta at the 2019 Venice Biennale with multimedia installations. As an integral part of their academic and artistic research, recent works by the artists include the integration of drawing, the moving image and digital scanning techniques as holistic processes to reinterpret contemporary landscape environments. As resident academics at the Department of Digital Arts both have been involved in the scanning and digital interpretation of a number of underground spaces.
'The artists make use of multi-media technology to transport and recreate the visual and auditory experience of being underground.'
Originating from an island where there is no traditional mineral mining activity, Borg and Briffa look at a series of similar excavation activities of the island’s rock structure in Malta and Gozo as thematic for a multi-media installation consisting of video and 3d scanned data. The Maltese artist’s work is site-specific, designed for the chosen exhibition site of the Old Oil Mill in Kalavasos.
Mining in Cyprus has a very long history, from antiquity to the present day. Even the name ‘Cyprus’ is derived from the copper rich mines of the island, Cuprous / of copper from the Latin cuprum / copper. Mining reached its peak during the British colonial years. It provided employment for many workers, and communities grew around the mines of Limni, Amiantos, Skouritissa and Kalavasos, amongst others. These mining communities provided the bodies that will enter every day the deep subterranean tunnels and work very long shifts under gruelling and inhumane conditions. Accidents, which put the lives of the miners at a daily risk, were common. However, it was not only accidents but also the long-term effects of the dust they inhaled that these men and their families had to endure. It was exactly these inhumane conditions that gave rise to the first labour demonstrations in Cyprus starting in 1936. The scarring of the landscape and the environmental fallout of the mines continues to the present day with heavy metals leaking from the mines, entering water reservoirs in the areas of the mines.
Taħt – Fuq installation reflects on the dual realities of these mining activities, namely the resulting scarring of the landscape and the environmental fallout, as well as on the awesome allure that these underground tunnels, catacombs and war shelters have on us.
The project focuses on transporting and re-dimensioning the visual and aural experience of being underground, contextualising historically, sociologically and also philosophically, through multi-media technology. The artists are collaborated on the acquisition and interpretation of scanned data with University of Malta colleagues Saviour Formosa and Fabrizio Cali.
As a central theme of the work, man’s relationship with the earth’s excavation will not only help enrich the visitors’ understanding of the thematic of the project’s objectives, but also highlight the differences and similarities of such activities from a different island’s perspective. Environments that the artists are filming and scanning include underground tunnels and underground war shelters in Malta. Since the project aims at a dialogue with the community where the exhibition will take place, the Maltese project will focus on transporting and re-dimensioning the visual and aural experience of being both overground and underground in the said spaces in Malta, contextualising historically, sociologically and also philosophically, through a multi-media strategy.
Taħt | Fuq (upside down, topsy-turvy) uses video, animation and data digitisation to experience a stretch of land from different levels, from the bird’s eye, to overground right down to the underground. The work was carried out through video, 3D scanning and animation.
Philosophically sited within a New Realism idiom, the work challenges the way we recognise the world as it is in itself, questioning not only if this place exists, but more importantly where it exists. Through an engagement with contemporary visualisation technologies, the installation reinforces Markus’s notion that; “Everything takes place only in our imagination, and outside of this exists the Nothing that constantly threatens it” Markus, G., Why the World Does Not Exist, Polity (2017).
The project is in collaboration with the the Cyprus Deputy Ministry of Culture, Cyprus University of Technology, Cut Contemporary Fine Arts Lab, Department of Digital Arts, University of Malta, Wignacourt Museum in Rabat, Heritage Malta and SAGIS. It is partly funded by the Arts Council Malta’s International Cultural Exchanges Scheme.