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Gibraltarian identity explored at Island Games Art Residency

Visiting and local artists taking part in the Island Games Art Residency explored the idea of identity during a brainstorming session last week. The artists have learnt about the Gibraltarian culture, history and politics and have begun creating their art works. Their works are being showcased at the John Mackintosh since yesterday.

A group of artists sat across the Gibraltar Garrison Library, swapping and analysing their identity cards, in an attempt to answer a question: what is the meaning of identity?

The international and Gibraltarian artists were on the Rock as part of the Island Games Art Residency, and throughout their stay have learnt about local art, culture, politics and history.

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The question was put to them following an educational talk from Director of the Gibraltar Garrison Library Dr Jennifer Ballentine Perera, who discussed Gibraltarian identity with the artists.

The two week long art residency led by Cultural Development Officer Davina Barbara and Residency Director Alan Perez, and Shane Dalmedo has been organised by Gibraltar Cultural Services as part of the Island Games activities.

The group have been exploring a range of topics and sites in Gibraltar to include the Upper Rock, Northern Defences and the Garrison Library and grounds, with this aimed at stimulating the creative production.

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The programme has also seen those participating giving a short introduction and presentation of their work at GEMA in the evenings, with these sessions open to the general public.

“They are being taken out of their comfort zone which is probably the most enriching you can do to anybody who is creative, as it can become very stale after a while by yourself,” Mr Perez said.

Mr Perez added that the Residency was a great investment in the future of Gibraltar art.

“They are really embracing the whole process which I think is fundamentally a big investment in the future of Gibraltar arts,” Mr Perez said.

Mr Perez said: “This will create opportunities in the future for Gibraltarian artists and I think this is something very important.”

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Mr Perez and Ms Dalmedo both recalled their experiences at the Gibraltar - Berlin Artist Exchange Residency and agreed on the positive aspects of these events.

“In order for us in Gibraltar to develop with the times and embrace what is being done internationally in the creative field, this is very important,” Mr Perez said.

International artists include Annu Tarakka from Aland Islands, Ed Smith from Bermuda, Donald Murray from the Western Isles, Aine Stapleton from Ireland, Gabriela Fernández López from Spain, and Aaron Yeandle and Bridget Spinney from Guernsey.

Local artists include Alan Perez, Shane Dalmedo, Lizanne Figueras, Cristina Rodriguez, Zoe Bishop, Oliver Canessa and Aora Nuñez.

Throughout the experience the artists are encouraged to work together and learn from one another.

Last Thursday the artists focused on the meaning of identity and were split into groups.

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On a blank piece of paper the artists began to brainstorm and discuss what identity means to them.

Gabriela Fernández López, Ed Smith, Cristina Rodriguez and Bridget Spinney brought out their identity cards, and in turn analysed at the physical representation of what is their identity.

“On a piece of card it just says who you are, and we are trying to make links with each other” Miss Rodriguez said.

She added: “Discussing through an artist perspective is very different from a political one, which has made it so interesting to share this experience.”

Ms Fernández López, Mr Smith and Ms Spinney added that they have enjoyed their experience in Gibraltar.

Aine Stapleton, Aora Nuñez, Annu Tarakka and Zoe Bishop also discussed identity and spent their time learning from one another.

“It has been a really positive experience so far, and as a Gibraltarian it has been really exciting that something like this is happening here,” Miss Bishop said.

“It has given a different combination of people the chance to collaborate across disciplines as we are all from different artistic backgrounds.”

Ms Stapleton added that she has been “blown away” at the talent in Gibraltar.

For Miss Nuñez this experience was “breaking boundaries” of what is considered art traditionally in Gibraltar.

The artists also visited Europa Point on a sound workshop which saw the artists’ record different natural noises such as the wind.

“It was just to challenge them to think in a different way, not just pencil and paper, but using sound and developing these works,” Mr Perez said.
He added that the emphasis is on a “finished product” but on a “creative process”.

Towards the end of the residency, there will be an exhibition to showcase the work produced throughout the two week programme. The exhibition will open on July 5 and will run daily at the John Mackintosh Hall until July 12.