Imħabba Bl-Addoċċ – with Roxman Gatt. RECAP

The sound of chains. The sound of some solid object dragging across a pavement. Slow steps. As we watch the video, we see a pair of white Reebok classics cast in plaster, in rough art-school style. They are dragged across the ground, leaving white traces on the pavement of an early-morning, deserted Sainsbury supermarket parking lot.

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The Reebok plaster casts are attached to the ankles of a person with chains. This person is wearing plastic Adidas slippers, white socks, a white priest-garment reading “Misericordes Sicut Pater” and is carrying a heavy burden on the back. The hands of the person are tattooed; the long dark hair frames and also hides the face, ambiguously male-female. We are told that more parts of the body of the person are tattooed with logos such as Mercedes Benz and Nike, inscribing consumerism directly into the skin.

Music sets in, easily recognizable as “Rhythm is a dancer”. It brings to mind the futuristic video of that song, once played in the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex filled with smoke. No smoke here, just chains rattling on cement, accompanying the nostalgic 90s dance hit, while the person (most likely a woman) continues to walk across the parking lot. A sort of Catholic priest /(read “slash”)/ BMW aficionado hybrid in a new-age version of passion of Christ, is slaving away under the BMW rear boot. A car sticker attached to it reads “Imħabba Bl-Addoċċ” – this could translate as “haphazard love” or “random love”, but it could also mean shitloads of love with a lot of emphasis on the word “loads”. Retro-futuristic at its best. We are in for a ride….

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Then smoke and the roaring sound of a race car set in – this time in real life, emanating from a beautiful blue BMW parked in front of the large video screen. We become aware of the setting: we are on a large parking lot at Ta’ Qali, Malta, just outside the local race course and close to the national park. Tyre marks all over the tarmac bear witness to the usual activities on this ground.

 

When the smoke of the BMW settles, a new video and the performance set in. Now things are speeding up, the performance is being performed, we can only stand and watch: Roxman Gatt and 2 performers appear on the self-proclaimed stage in slow “Maltese men walk” (sic). The performance presents a wild and seemingly random mix of elements of consumerist culture, Maltese men’s love for their cars, some real passion for cars, a good batch of humour and rebellious impulse against gendered role behaviour.

Dancer 1 sends love from the heart to dancer 2 who is caressing herself. While repeating and reciprocating this movement, Roxman is moving with the car, or the car is moving with Roxman’s hips, we don’t know which came first. The accompanying music “imħabba bl-addoċċ”, post-pop style, was composed by Roxman herself. Roxman is merging her body, the car she flirts with, the audience and the video: On the big screen, we see hands washing cars in repetitive movements. Interspersed throughout these scenes are video shots of flickering “imħabba bl-addoċċ” and animated piano and censored masturbation scenes.

 

Roxman – facing us – speaks the words along the song in the background “għamiltni wet” and slaps her pussy; the dancers do the same. Following this, jerking movements on Roxman’s front while the 2 dancers do humping movements in sync.

Then Roxman moves on the car boot, arousing herself, while the dancers get a bucket and start washing each other like one washes a beloved car. Roxman and the car start a dance back and forth, dancers fall to the floor, holding onto one another, lying on top of one another, fighting sensually, untangling and tangling their bodies.

Over the course of another 10 minutes or so, Roxman interacts with the car, moves like a man, caresses herself and the car, repeats those movements, lifts weights, does press ups, feels her body, sings “imħabba bl-addoċċ whenever it comes on in the video screen behind her, makes humping movements and dances. The car has become an integral part of her body, Roxman’s body and the car-body are having a sexual relationship in front of our eyes, we see this and cannot turn our eyes away, there is beauty in the movements and beauty in the shapes and gestures. For a moment all those men washing their cars with obsession and dedication are lifted onto the pedestal of admiration, everything in this set-up makes sense and yet remains surreal. A foam party is happening in my mind. The whole female cast – the BMW-driver is a woman too: Sefora – merge with the car. Dancers and Roxman declare their love to the body of the car. They dance around the car, then tap on their chest, then walk to the car (man-walk again), get in and take off, leaving us in a cloud of smoke and melancholy final chords of music.

At the far end of the parking lot, the car does a saluting doughnut and some illegal happy drifting.

In an interview after the performance, Roxanne explains: “I’m into creating awkwardness, and whether it works or not, that is my intention for the audience.”

VIDEO DOCUMENTATION of the performance:

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