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  • Emma Borg

The milk of dreams

Updated: Mar 6, 2022

Emma Borg

Earlier this June, Cecilia Alemani, artistic director of the 2022 Venice Biennale, announced the theme for next year’s 59th edition of the exhibition; Milk of dreams. Inspired by the name of Leonora Carrington’s (1917-2011) children’s book, Alemani has notably described the book as so: “Told in a dreamlike style that seemed to terrify young and old alike, Carrington’s stories describe a world set free, brimming with possibilities. But it is also the allegory of a century that imposed intolerable pressure on the individual, forcing Carrington into a life of exile: locked up in mental hospitals, an eternal object of fascination and desire, yet also a figure of startling power and mystery, always fleeing the structures of a fixed, coherent identity.”

One might argue that Carrington was able to create her own Milk of Dreams, in part, due to being somewhat of an outsider. Even though she was born to a rich family she rejected the pomp and luxuries of high society, even though she was skilled artist she was never taken seriously due to being a member of the fairer sex and finally she became a total outsider leaving the West to find freedom in Mexico. Carrington’s strength came from trusting her own peripheral perspective. Not an easy task to do, as existing on a periphery creates a complex dynamic, where one is drawn to and aware of the centre while never being fully accepted within.

Existing on a periphery is a familiar theme throughout Maltese history, therefore, it is no surprise that the Maltese Pavilion, Diplomazija astuta, at next year’s Venice Biennale will be exploring this notion. The Pavillion highlights Malta’s peculiar peripheral dynamic, of historically wanting to be validated by the continent and colonizers while currently attempting to redefine the island as a legitimate and authentic hub of its own. Diplomazija astuta will indeed be focusing on the important socio-cultural and diplomatic relationship that Malta has with its neighbour Italy but it will also be reframing Malta’s relationship to the Mediterranean as a whole. By redirecting the narrative of Maltese identity to one within a Mediterranean lens the team shifts the focus away from the classical hubs but rather to a united peripheral area. An area that is not solely united by geography but an area that is united in a deep cultural sense. Diplomazija astuta promises to no longer let Malta simply be viewed as an outsider at the Venice Biennale but to instead liberate it to create its own version of a Mediterranean Milk of Dreams.

(Emma Borg, The milk of dreams, published in The Malta Independent on Tuesday 5th December 2021)

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