Parallel Existences. The Notarial Archives: A Photographer’s Inspiration forges a novel book where photography, art and history interlace to weave a new tapestry held together by a common thread: the ‘fragments’ found at the Notarial Archives in Valletta, Malta. At the heart of this volume is the artistic photography of Alex Attard. Through the photographer’s lens, a number of manuscripts – in particular a series of contorted manuscripts, witnesses to the ravages of time, nature and human complacency which apparently had no immediate purpose because of their lamentable condition – suddenly found purpose. These photos, together with this book, are an attempt to deal with the challenge presented by our own Internet age where the past is both more intimate and more remote, readily found and just as readily forgotten. An archive is much more than storage space, however it is only when its pulse teems with researchers that this space may claim the title. Alex Attard provides a new way of looking at archives and demonstrates that an Archive is not just for researchers but can also act as a place of inspiration for artists.
The photos in Part I of the book draw upon what once was, to create something new; the essay by Alex Attard himself explains the genesis of his artistic photography, while the five essays by artists and art critics that accompany this part provide a stimulating and creative interpretation of the photos. The chapters in Part II – written by nine leading experts in their fields – tease out what can be done with the material that survives in a better state. Ranging in focus from 11th to the 20th centuries, these essays powerfully illustrate some of the many research possibilities that the Notarial Archives lend themselves to. It is hoped that this first notarial archives-inspired artistic venture will lead to many more and that the historical studies will entice other researchers to walk through the doors of the Notarial Archives. We can only know where we are if we know where we came from: thus the fragments of the past are the light that shines upon the wholeness of the present.
Publication date: 4th October 2018