Transform everything

Digital technology opens up new possibilities for the visual arts. It allows artists to go beyond the traditional constraints of art. Sculpture is a centuries-old tradition reliant on the relationship between the artefact, and its material and space around it. In the past, sculpture was confined to being a physical act; it produced three-dimensional tangible objects that had little to do with the digital world.

Matthew Galea

But this is just one side, if you would forgive the pun, to sculpture. Sculpture can be viewed as a mental process. It is the act of remediating things, or rather reassigning meaning to objects. Marcel Duchamp’s infamous sculpture ‘Fountain’ (1917) is perhaps a perfect example of this. Meaning is a social and cultural construct created through interactions by people with the objects and their environment. Since meaning is fabricated by society, then it stands to reason how the same objects have held multiple interpretations through time.

Matthew Galea (supervised by Dr Vince Briffa) explored these social and cultural constructs to create novel artworks. To do so, he employed skills from different disciplines including drawing, painting, sculpture, music, and the other performing arts. But instead of expressing them individually he fused them into one art form. The various art forms could be experienced collectively, for example, as a musical instrument, or a painting, or even through movement.

The multidisciplinary approach also allowed Galea to investigate chemistry and physics as ways of generating content and engaging with the artefact. Galea produced an art installation that made use of the night sky, which itself has held multiple interpretations by humankind throughout time. The artwork transformed movement into audio and visual content.

Thanks to his research, Galea helped show how hyperdisciplinary artefacts that fuse various art forms are possible through digital technology. Computers can transform data into an image, audio, or text. Software can transform anything. Digital technology can enhance artworks’ interactivity with the audience, making visitors part of the artwork.

To see the project’s outcome visit the website.

This research was performed as part of a Master of Fine Art in Digital Art which Matthew Galea completed at the Faculty of Media and Knowledge Sciences (MaKS), University of Malta. It is partially funded by Master it! scheme. This scholarship is part-financed by the European Union—European Social Fund (ESF) under Operational Programme II—Cohesion Policy 2007–2013, ‘Empowering People for More Jobs and a Better Quality of Life’.

A Faculty Reborn

During the mid-1970s, the Faculties of Science and Arts were closed down, and the Bachelor programmes phased out. Most of the foreign (mainly British) academics left Malta, as did some Maltese colleagues. Those few who stayed were assigned teaching duties at the newly established Faculty of Education and Faculty of Engineering. Relatively little research took place, except when funds were unneccessary, and it is thanks to these few that scientific publications kept trickling out.

In 1987, the Faculties of Arts and Science were reconstituted. The Faculty of Science had four ‘divisions’ which became the Departments of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics. In the same year, I returned from the UK to join the Faculty.

Things gradually improved as more staff and students joined. However, equipment was either obsolete or beyond repair. The B.Sc. (Bachelor of Science) course was re-launched with an evening course. Faculty members worked flat out in very poor conditions. The Physics and Mathematics building was still shared with Engineering. Despite these problems, we had a Faculty and identity. Nevertheless, we wanted our courses to be of international repute—our guiding principle.

During the 1990s, yearly budgets had improved slightly along with experimental facilities. Computers and the occasional capital investment helped immensely. Research output increased, as did student numbers, while postgraduate Masters and Ph.D. students started to appear.

Since 2005, some faculty members have been working hard to secure European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) by submitting proposals to reinforce our research infrastructure. A total of six projects were approved with a combined budget of nearly €5 million. This has resulted in new, state of the art research facilities and an exponential increase in research output, bolstered by additional academic staff and research student numbers of close to 80.
Students are now organised and active through S-Cubed, the Science Students’ Society. This leading organisation is one of the three faculty pillars: the academic and support staff, and the student body. Together, we have made giant strides and the future looks bright.

Special thanks to Prof. Stanley Fiorini who helped us compile our timeline, aided by Prof. Josef Lauri