“What Homo Melitensis seems to suggest is perhaps this: all these objects, its diverse inventory, and the artistic creativity that inhabits its quarters point toward the transformability of subjectivity across history. ” —Bassam El Baroni
Published to coincide with the exhibition Homo Melitensis: An Incomplete Inventory in 19 Chapters, curated for the Malta Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia in 2017, this book sets out to be more than an exhibition catalogue. Artist-curators Bettina Hutschek and Raphael Vella take readers on a poetic journey through the volatile territories of national and cultural identity—territories whose maps require a perpetual redrawing of borders, imaginaries, and conceptual frameworks. With its colonial past, unique geographic bearings, and hybrid linguistic and cultural traits, the Mediterranean island of Malta provides them with the ideal location to begin such a journey. In spite of the smallness of the island, Homo Melitensis—Maltese man—is hardly an endangered species, and the book’s abecedary presents ample proof of the rich, complex, and continuing history of a people that proudly extends to diasporic communities far beyond their land of origin. The book’s diverse outlook on the subject, characterized by its engagement of authors, artists, and travelogues from within and outside this Mediterranean archipelago, also brings to the fore the mythmaking and occasionally divisive, even violent nature of affiliations and loyalties. Centuries-old artifacts, quotations, maps, everyday objects, and contemporary works of art are removed from their sources of origin and redeployed in open-ended chapters. The contents of these chapters are thus redefined aesthetically and semiotically, yet deliberately fall short of completeness.