Reflections on Nikolas Ventourakis’ Rituals for our Safety
This show is open 4-22 March, Tuesday- Saturday, 10am-3pm
The Blitz Residency Programme invites international artists to live in Malta for a month, to explore the islands through their work.’The Blitz Residency Programme is a core strand of its artistic and public programme, created to facilitate a long-term, international artistic cultural exchange, while fortifying [Blitz’s] role as cultural incubator and advocate organisation for contemporary art practice in Malta.‘
For his residency show, Ventourakis produced photographs for this exhibition—rational, no-nonsense documentary photography—that deal with ‘notions of safety; of how opposite and contradictory visions of safe spaces are part of contemporary, political discourse.’
Notions of safety are interesting as, although fundamental to our social and individual lives, they are subtly and effectively concealed. Great value is attached to being safe in our everyday lives—in reality notions of safety are one of the bases on which our biological, social and intellectual evolution was and is dependent. Just think of why having a home is important, or of the economic discrepancy that exists between places that are perceived as unsafe and those perceived as safe.
In this residency show Ventourakis explores the tangible, everyday notions of safety, from the bastion to the safety tape, from the symbolic to the biological. It can be said that Malta has a particular relationship with notions of safety: that which made it strategically important due to its geography, made it equally vulnerable.
All the photographic subjects have one thing in common: the physical and symbolic manifestations of safety—walls, borders, signage, icons of authority—and the powers that exert control over access and non-access.
In a sense the photographs document the invisible hands of the authority, the written law that demands for our safety and the protocols, structures and systems set in place for the exercising of power over ‘our safety’.
The value of safety also extends to ideas of moral safety. In the exhibition Ventourakis puts up a curtain over a picture of a rock fissure, easily associated with the vulva; a clear link to moral safety. Suggestively, our clothes, drapery, curtains, blinds and textiles have these underlying notions of personal, moral safety; to protect the virtues set in place by society.
Even the bastions, despite their blank impassive disposition, were in a sense, historically protectors of morality. They were erected to keep out the infidels and in part became symbols of Christian power and wealth. The impenetrability of the fortifications becomes more than a physical presence—it is the presence of Christian virtue, the invisible hand of god protecting his people from evil.
The lion, a symbol of male authority, protection, power, dominance and sometimes, divinity (companion to St.Mark), exerts notions of safety through presence. Even today the lion is set outside houses, on the low walls surrounding porches. The figure of the lion makes a statement of territorial dominance over which it exerts its power and offers safety, a warning, again fending off evil.
The theories of Michel Foucault are hugely relevant to this body of work, as safety is an institutionalised aspect of our lives (in reality, what isn’t?).
We encourage you to visit the show at Blitz, which is situated at no. 68, St. Lucy Street, Valletta.
tl:dr—Ventourakis marvellously captures the invisible hand of the structures and systems that control our safety, and how they affect our own personal notions of safety.