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Backlot

Charlie Cauchi presents BACKLOT, a solo exhibition at Spazju Kreattiv and RECCE, an audio installation that takes you around the city of Valletta.

BACKLOT is part of a new body of work by Charlie Cauchi, based around Malta as a filming location. This interdisciplinary work fuses Charlie’s past academic endeavours with her current artistic and filmmaking practice. Malta attracts foreign film productions for a multitude of creative and economic reasons. High on that list is its aptitude to stand in, duplicate or replicate a variety of temporal and physical spaces. Ready and available, adaptable, and pliant, the island is a backlot in its own right. Malta is an open-air studio in and of itself. Inevitably public buildings, beaches, streets, doorways and sometimes even our own homes end up playing host to visiting productions, often transforming them into something entirely other. As is often the case, a new reality is imposed on Malta’s existing body. Throughout this exhibition, Charlie uses video work, photographic images, built structures and more to break down the complex possibilities of interpretation.

RECCE is a geotagged application that takes the form of an audio-guided tour of Valletta and its surroundings. The title lays the groundwork for this investigation: recce, short for reconnaissance, refers to the pre-production phase of a film shoot when a production team visits a location to determine its suitability for filming.

The work draws a portrait of this landscape through contrast: dismantling the cinematic depictions in our popular consciousness to reveal what lies beneath. Using a collage of speech, music and ambient sound, the filmed images we are familiar with are refocused. With each footstep, the guide lays bare the geographical topographical, architectural, and aesthetic depictions of the city and the historical significance of these sites. The tour also shines a light on the more personal lived experiences. The tour also shines a light on the personal histories and lived experiences of the city’s people.

A screen location is often an amalgam of real spaces, film sets and digital manipulation. Therefore, many of us can never truly have a tangible, embodied interaction with the places presented to us by filmmakers. Yet, at times, film experiences can also alter our spatial awareness of places we think we know. Airborne views or cameras set up from vantage points inaccessible to us in our daily lives may provide the inhabitants with a shift in perspective, confronting them with the realization that the spaces they long thought they knew well may not be quite what they once thought. The guide gives the listener the opportunity to imagine a new screen persona.

Through Recce and Backlot, Charlie posits herself as a surrogate for the location scout, pitting the real against the “reel”. She asks: What is our relationship between the reality we live in as Maltese people and the artifice projected onto us and, in turn, onto screens, big or small? This work reclaims these spaces and re-frames our gaze to dispute or acknowledge the real, recreated and the suppressed. Which places and spaces appear again and again in differing guises? Which are those that have had more fleeting screen time? What are the liminal in-between spaces that end up on the cutting room floor?

BACKLOT: Space C, Spazju Kreattiv. St James Cavalier, Castille Place, Valletta, Malta.

26 May until 2 July 2023. 

RECCE: Launch last week of June 2023. The app will be available from Spazju Kreattiv. 

This project is supported by Arts Council Malta and Spazju Kreattiv. Special thanks to Malta Film Commission, Faces, Pellikola, Valletta Pictures, Sajjetta and The Pub.

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