Unlocking time: Conrad Shawcross at MICAS International Art Weekend
12th October 2023
Three distinctive bodies of work from celebrated contemporary British artist Conrad Shawcross will mark this year’s MICAS International Art Weekend, together with a keynote lecture from acclaimed American Museum Director Timothy Rub
The fifth MICAS International Art Weekend (MIAW) is back on 27, 28 and 29 October 2023, with the celebrated British artist Conrad Shawcross unveiling What is to become is already here, his showcase of three distinct bodies of work that herald the imminent opening of the Malta International Contemporary Arts Space (MICAS).
The MIAW will also feature the acclaimed Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Emeritus Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with his keynote lecture Preserving the Past/Programming for the Future. The American Museum Director’s lecture will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by MICAS’ Artistic Director Edith Devaney, with the participation of Conrad Shawcross, Waqas Wajahat, and Dr Georgina Portelli, on the need for not-for-profit museums and art institutions to look forward as well as back, to reflect the ever-evolving expectations of the communities they serve.
What is to become is already here, the title of Shawcross’ show, will serve as a fitting prelude to MICAS’ imminent opening. As one of the first artists to visit Malta as a guest of MICAS, Shawcross found inspiration in the island’s history and geography, and the space MICAS occupies with its high views and proximity to the sea.
In a first for MICAS, Shawcross’ work will be installed on-site at the MICAS site in Floriana, which is now in its final stages of construction ahead of its 2024 opening. What is to become is already here suggests this sense of foreboding, and the materialisation of the unknown forces unleashed here at MICAS, or perhaps a predestined outcome within the storied life of these fortifications.
MICAS has acquired Shawcross’ The Dappled Light of the Sun (Formation I) as part of its permanent collection. One of the artist’s most significantly mature works of his career, this composition – a floating, five-metre cloud-like structure of 6,000 welded triangles forming around 1,600 tetrahedrons – harnesses his fascination with the perpetual motion of the natural world. Constructed in welded weathered steel, the structure encourages viewers to walk beneath it – just as if it were a large tree offering beauty and shade – to experience the changing patterns created by dappled light passing through the complex, geometric canopy.
The work also embodies the artist’s deep fascination with mathematical theory, as well as his engagement with the natural world. “The Greeks considered the tetrahedron to represent the very essence of matter,” Shawcross said of his work in 2015. “In this huge work I have taken this form as my ‘brick’, growing these chaotic, diverging forms that will float above the heads of visitors.”
The other work is Shawcross’ MICAS Beacons, 2023,a new ambitious site-specific triptych placed on the ancient battlements of La Vittoria Bastion.
At 7.5 metres in height, stainless and galvanised steel masts will support a pair of counter-rotating semaphoric discs. But what first appears to be a sort of military installation, will reveal a work that reflects Shawcross’ fascination with movement and engineering.
An in-built mechanical system will power these semaphoric, optic discs, and like a stained-glass window, will be activated by the light of the sun and sky. As the light filters through a pattern of hundreds of thousands of non-repeating holes, Shawcross will use the colours of the maritime flags’ semaphoric code to spell out the word ‘NOW’. Employing the playfulness of a child’s toy, what appears as a naval warning system will turn into a beacon for the construction works that herald the imminent opening of MICAS’ galleries in the autumn.
The other works by Shawcross will be Slow Arc within a Cube (I, VI, VII, XI, XIII, XIV), Patterns of Absence, Limit of Everything and Paradigm Vex (Slender), all displayed in the series of barrel vaults at the base of the battlement walls, which have been designated for artist-in-residency spaces in the next phase of the MICAS’ site development. Installed in a reverse chronological order, this is the largest display of these related light works by Shawcross to date, revealing the experimental approach the artist takes to exploring concepts such as time, space, and human perception.
Saturday, 28 October
Keynote lecture, Preserving the Past/Programming for the Future, by acclaimed American Museum Director, Timothy Rub, at the National Museum of Archaeology, Valletta. Followed by a panel discussion moderated by MICAS’ Artistic Director Edith Devaney, with Timothy Rub, Waqas Wajahat, Conrad Shawcross and Dr Georgina Portelli, focusing on the need for not-for-profit museums and art institutions to look forward as well as back, and reflect the ever-evolving expectations of the constituencies and communities they serve. VIEW EVENT
Preserving the Past/Programming for the Future will be followed in the evening by the MICAS Annual Fundraiser Art Party curated by Malta-based creative Michele Tufigno and held at the specially transformed Malta Maritime Museum in Birgu. VIEW EVENT
Sunday, 29 October
Conrad Shawcross and MICAS’ Artistic Director Edith Devaney lead a tour about What is to become is already here. This is the first time that any works have been installed in the grounds of the MICAS site and access to the complex will only be possible through booking. VIEW EVENT
The MICAS International Art Weekend 2023 is supported by the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government, European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Restoration Directorate, Visit Malta and Heritage Malta.