TABOO - TRANSGRESSION - TRANSCENDENCE
in Art & Science
27-29 September 2023, Malta Society of Arts, Valletta
This paper follows two projects which have at their root the island of Farfara, an island which may or may not have existed, and which appeared sporadically on maps of the 17th century; Farfara 2031 and Farfara Archives.
Farfara2031 is a project and research process, using the procedure of bidding with this fictional island for the title of European Capital of Culture (ECoC). Designed as an artistic experimental platform Farfara2031 aims to push the boundaries in thinking, practising and experiencing what an ECoC may be if virtuality is considered as a new form of cultural ‘physicality’. Farfara2031 takes the model of ECoC as a working template for investigating innovative structures and improved relations of creative and systemic thinking to develop models of collaboration, common curation and hybrid / blended models of training, capacity building, informal education and artistic production with participants and audiences at the heart of the work done.
Ultimately, the project’s research question is: How can virtuality - understood here as a new form of urban and cultural ‘physicality’ - shape a more radical understanding of what European Capital of Cultures should achieve, by planning a cultural programme for a non-physical place?
Alongisde Farfara2031, the pseudo-historical research project, Farfara Archives is a collection of documents and artefacts belonging to six historical characters spanning almost three centuries, all presenting possible evidence of the existence of the island of Farfara. While the history of Farfara can be seen in parallel with the Maltese archipelago, it also provides the opportunity to research fictitious states, historical myth, and contemporary public culture to create something that is quasi-believable within a simulated bureaucratic framework.
Both projects provide an opportunity to address the mechanisms behind the production of accepted truth through either the reordering of documentation or the presentation of subversive, playful or simply invented material as official documentation. Both are presented as ‘real’ projects; the creators speak about all elements of the projects as official processes, thus planting doubt and confusion.
Both imagine Farfara as a simultaneously ‘real’, ‘ fictional’ and ‘virtual’ island, and build on the tradition of previous iterations of fictional, under-the-radar or unofficial nation-building, where nations or islands have been simply imagined, or have been deliberately created as quasi-legal entities.
Both also challenge the nature of official acceptance and documentation, whether this is the structure of the archive and its accepted structures, or the process of bidding for the title of ECoC through a host country and the strict process imposed by the European Commission.
Margerita Pulè is a curator, researcher and cultural manager, with a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from the University of Malta and is founder-director of Unfinished Art Space, an independent and nomadic space showing contemporary art in Malta, through which she engages in an open, collaborative and symbiotic curatorial practice. She is also a founder-member of the Magna Żmien Foundation, which digitises 20th century analogue home archives, forming a community archive accessible to researchers and artists. She also provides training in career development for artists and curators, and is currently a trainer for CASE Malta.
She programmed much of the cultural programme in the run-up to Valletta 2018, and is currently co-director of Farfara 2031, working on the bid for the title of European Capital of Culture in 2031.