rubberbodies – a trajectory of an artist collective in Malta

A publication which presents the methodologies, devising techniques and the notation of the rubberbodies collective.

Authors: Rebecca Camilleri, Jimmy Grima, Ira Melkonyan & Matthew Pandolfino

Publisher: the rubberbodies collective (2011)

Supported by Malta Arts Fund



Space conversion, new life for old stones.

We found a cemented floor covered in soot that had piled up over the years, the large windows were covered in a thick layer of dust, obstructing the natural light, and there was no source of water.

We began to re-explore the movement in the space. We had to intensify the feeling of lightness and the energy between us as the space could easily become a threat to the world we had created in the studio.

As we stretched the fluid movement to a 20-minute walk of encounters, we worked in relation to the character Ave’s dynamic transitions. We used rollerblades, a bicycle and walking stilts to play with the depth of the space, whilst using the space theatrically in ways that might have been problematic in a pro-scenic theatre.

We began to use the pillars to frame the performance, this would allow the audience to experience a shifting of characters, appearing and disappearing. The windows also became a way of entering the space, extending the space to the outdoors, intensifying the cultural context through the image of the church.

We struggled to fit the performance into the space. Even after cleaning the floor and setting the space, we had to work to develop a feeling for the place. It had become a memory of metal, with echoes of a dense workforce, a scent of oil and a residue of cold air. We wanted to convert it into a space that could hold emotions of love, passion, jealousy and fear. As the nine of us shared ideas and struggled to balance a performance in a space which overwhelmed the audience, we created a piece which shared elements with the dock, making it difficult to move into any other space. We had become embedded in the location, with one intrinsic to the other.

A strained Swan Song: where are we going?

With eight people involved and no clear hierarchy, the freedom we had so fiercely entertained had now created dissolution of communication: roles became difficult to define.

It became clear that the responsibility to make the performance happen should fall within the hands of one or a few, but we had chosen to form a collective and we clung to this, making it a responsibility that shifted from completion and success, to the pursuit of the methodology. If the work failed it would be the responsibility of the group as a whole.

As the work developed there was no sense of interaction, each element became very separate. And discussion ceased, yet the work continued. What is exciting about performance-based work are the discussions, the conflicts, the sketches, the bursts of emotions, the firing off of ideas. It is a form of addiction, a labyrinth of play and uncertainty.