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Exhibiton Malta

A few introductory words by David Cassar

Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of my colleagues I would like to welcome you to St. James Cavalier. Being the only male member of our group, my fellow artists conferred on me the honor of being the first speaker at the opening of this exhibition. Although digital art as a medium is not a novelty, exhibitions dealing with a virtual self, roaming through virtual art galleries is indeed a new concept both locally and abroad. Also Reiner Schneeberger will be giving an in depth explanation of the Second Life Programme, I would like to briefly explain the processes involved in producing these art works. The artist’s idea is transformed into a physical medium using traditional drawings and photographs. Computer programmes are then used to manipulate the images with the resultant digital image being uploaded into Second Life. It is our hope that the Second Life programme will be introduced into the Art classroom of the, hopefully, not too distant future. I will not take up any more of your time and would now like to introduce the next speaker, Dr.Raphael Vella who is our lecturer. My colleagues and myself would like to thank Dr. Vella and Mr. Schneeberger for their help and encouragement. Once again thank you for your attention and your presence here today. It is our sincere hope that you enjoy the exhibits on display.


A Second Life for Art by Dr. Raphael Vella

One of the big questions in education today revolves around the way information technologies and social networking sites are transforming the way we learn.  Since the late 1990s, we have become familiar with the notion of ‘relational aesthetics’; art curator and theorist Nicolas Bourriaud reminded us how the city environment has ‘imposed’ on us elaborate social relations, with the result that forms of artistic production around the end of the twentieth century were becoming increasingly interactive rather than being merely reflective of the artist’s private existence. Now, in the new millennium, these human relations are moving further away from the physical world and, some would say, are becoming more ‘inhuman’ or even ‘post-human’.  Digital video and still photography, computer-based image-manipulation software and plug-ins, mobile devices, the Global Positioning System, internet messaging systems like Skype, online role-playing or multi-user games, social networking sites like Facebook and virtual environments like Second Life are shifting human life into perpetual states of communicability.  It is inevitable that these predominantly visual phenomena are revolutionizing social life and the work of art, now no longer a product of “mechanical reproduction” as Walter Benjamin theorised it, but one based o n ‘real’ communications in virtual worlds.

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LTR ( N.N., N.N., Raphael Vella, N.N., N.N., David Cassar, Reiner Schneeberger)

Reiner Schneeberger enters the scene at this point in the rapid transformation of the social environment an d art.  Tutored by Herbert W. Franke, a well-known pioneer of computer art in Germany, Reiner comes equipped with a mindset that understands the significance of experimental graphics in art and design, the use of purely visual and even animated instructional material in educational and museological settings, and the directions that communication systems and forms of entertainment are taking now and in the coming decade or so. Reiner’s unique combination of skills, knowledge and sheer determination convinced me during the last few years that our students’ exposure to his teaching was not only beneficial but essential.  The students in our undergraduate Art programme at the Faculty of Education (University of Malta) train for four years to become teachers of art in secondary schools.  Throughout their course, they follow credits in different media practices, theory, art history and methodology, and also teach the subject during Teaching Practice sessions.  Reiner’s work with the students, particularly his intensive contribution to the current project we are showing at St James Cavalier in Valletta, brings together a number of factors that relate to the programme of studies: digital graphics, contemporary artistic practice and education.  The current project has developed over a number of months, starting in October 2008 with the students’ production of a series of small images in different media like watercolour, ink and photography.  For several weeks, they manipulated these initial works using digital photography and computer software, and finally, with Reiner’s help, uploaded these images on Second Life (SL), a 3D virtual world developed by Linden Lab in San Francisco.  As residents in SL, each student created his or her own avatar, image gallery and image ‘tags’, which permit them and other users to ‘travel’ into other virtual galleries.  During a workshop in late November with Reiner, the students’ avatars travelled freely in SL and simultaneously communicated with other users outside Malta, receiving and offering textual and verbal comments about the art-work on view. The project elicits various fascinating arguments and discussions about the art object in contemporary virtual worlds: ‘where’ does the work exist?  Is it material or immaterial?  Can the preparatory images produced manually by the students be considered as ‘final’ works, or should they now be perceived as segments in a perpetual process of technological change and interactivity?  Who is the ‘public’ for art in SL; is it the ‘real’ students or their avatars?  And, to return to education, how does this new scenario affect the way students learn and communicate? We are still in the process of offering responses to these questions; not determinate answers but imaginative propositions that may permit us and our children to mould new relations, modes of communications and attitudes towards artistic production.

Dr. Raphael Vella PhD (Lond.)
Art Coordinator Undergraduate and Masters Programmes,
Department of Arts and Languages in Education,
Faculty of Education,
University of Malta

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