Kristina Borg

An entry from my {non-existent} daily journal – #TakeTwo

Kristina © Elisa von Brockdorff
© Elisa von Brockdorff

Kristina Borg is a freelance socially engaged artist and art lecturer. In her interdisciplinary practice she collaborates with specific communities and devotes her attention to relationships between people. In dialogue with the community and/or the place, her work focuses on socio-political issues in urban-collective spaces. She is currently leading a community project with the University of Malta as part of the European project AMASS – Acting on the Margins: Arts as Social Sculpture, funded by EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. In 2014 she placed first in Divergent Thinkers-Malta. In 2020 her collaborative project Nimxu Mixja was awarded Arts Council Malta’s Premju għall-Arti as Best project in the community. She is also a fellow of the Salzburg Global Forum for Cultural Innovators.

Image by the author
Image by the author

Here we go again.
One year after and it still feels pretty much the same.
The same public holiday – March 31st, Malta 2021, Freedom Day – and back to semi-lockdown it is.
As I relive the same thoughts and emotions, I read through last year’s entry from my {non-existent} daily journal. And oh! It still feels so timely. For a moment I thought of sharing it once again, but on second thoughts, I felt the need for a Take Two.

Is this really the same?
I return from a short afternoon walk, out in the sun. The roads don’t sound as quiet as last year and the waters are not as crystal clear as my memory recalls. Where has the clapping gone? And what about the loud – and dreadful, I must add – cacophony from the self-organised street parties, playing late into the night and vibrating through the windowpanes?
All the social solidarity doesn’t seem exciting anymore.
What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s happening…

We’ve become too accustomed to this ‘new normal’, as facts and figures continue to grow… meaninglessly. Frequent claims that we have won the (numerous) war(s) against Covid have been made. We’ve been reassured. With our resilience and stamina our healing factor is enhanced – you are Invincible! I am Invincible!
Why fear Covid?

Hand-drawn illustration by the author, 2021, pen on paper
Hand-drawn illustration by the author, 2021, pen on paper

How can I forget? ‘Vaccine’ is the new buzzword around town.
– Have you been jabbed?
– Not yet.
– How come? Aren’t you over 75 years?
– And you, didn’t you say that you lecture studio practice in person? Doesn’t that make you a frontliner?
– But my load doesn’t add up to 20 weekly hours. I’m one of those so-called casual lecturers. Similar to the beginning of the academic year, the college didn’t provide cloth face masks for us casual part-timers, or at least not for all.
– Does that allow you to teach casually, whenever however you feel like? Does that also make you a casual-spreader or casually immune to the virus?

Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson.
I want it all, and I want it now!
We want it all, and we want it now!

Don’t get me wrong. I feel privileged – after a year of uncertain freelance income I still have a place I call home, I have a good support network, I’m not vulnerable and I’m in my early 30s, so, still relatively young (yeah, mid- 30s crisis approaching?).

I would rather be assured that my 75+ friend or the middle-aged adult, who tried seeking asylum, but ended up living in overcrowded inhumane conditions, get their jab. I’d rather pass on my shot to my 60+ mother or to the cashier whose eyes smile at me despite being overwhelmed by the pile of groceries on the conveyor belt.

One year after, and this pandemic continues to amplify the masked frailty of our mismanaged and fragmented political system that centres its belief around capitalism. For the past year, the meaning of ‘vulnerability’ and the notion of ‘equity’ have been twisted and we continue twisting them to make sure they meet what we consider our right. For how long shall we remain blind to the consequences of all this? For how long shall we remain blind to how everything intertwines?

Snapshot of an overcrowded 91 bus, Malta 2021
Snapshot of an overcrowded 91 bus, Malta 2021. Image by Rafael Pascual-Leone

Take, for example, the use of public transport during this pandemic – whilst the privileged physically distance within their bubble, many others, who for various reasons do not own a car, find no alternative but to pack themselves on a bus that runs on an inefficient system. Meanwhile, infrastructure authorities continue to chop down trees, destroy fields and local produce with farmers losing their income, for the sake of widening roads, because Car is King.

Yet, we feel entitled. Entitlement is our right.
We feel entitled to ease our lockdown boredom. We want it. We need it. Here and now. And just like Flash, the fastest superhero, the courier – who is often a third country national – dashes to our favourite meal place, grabs our order from the kitchen and rushes to our door, risking their life to ensure a fresh and safe delivery on time, despite the poor working conditions. One fine day, the door doesn’t ring. To our surprise, the courier was involved in a traffic accident. But by now it comes as no surprise, it is Our Super Folt.

Our Super Folt
Image from You Are What You Buy – A Remote ReVisit 2020. Hand-drawn illustration by the author, acrylic on paper (

As our hidden fear increases, so does our greed.
As our greed increases, it turns us into new monsters.
As we become monsters, new hidden crises are revealed.

For the past 12 months, in different scenarios I was asked, “Do you believe the lockdown/pandemic experience will have a positive long-lasting effect?” I observe that the pandemic is often discussed as if it’s over, something that happened in the past. But here we are, amid another surge with new lockdowns popping up here and there, as projects and events continue to postpone or cancel.

For how long should we postpone? A couple of weeks, months, a year?
As much as I appreciate taking immediate action, the past year has revealed how short-term solutions might be myopic. Yet, in the rush to deliver, we persist to stick to deadlines, rigid schedules, strict modes of assessment and end results, until the day a lockdown is announced. Only then we start talking about flexibility – a value yet to be cherished.

And so, we adapt.
Last year’s rapid response of shifting online was timely but was it the most meaningful or simply the fastest way? It seems that some of us are doubting whether this was a step in the right direction. As most people start to realise this, my rush of panic of not being able to deliver online seems to have calmed down.

With mixed feelings I did try to explore the potential of the virtual realm.
Will it replace direct human interaction? Definitely not.
It excludes people with limited or no technological access. Yet, it includes people across borders and different time zones, it includes people receiving daily vulnerable medical therapy who otherwise would have never been able to join in-person workshops. It’s not straightforward. It’s a hassle. I will never forget last week’s experience when over the phone I guided two elderly people in their 70s to install Zoom on their computer and connect to online meetings. Delivering online workshops with participants whose age ranges from 30 to 80, all with different degrees of technological literacy, brings its own new joys… and frustrations.

For how long can I endure such frustrations? In the long-term, is it even possible? And why should I expect community members to be in the mood to engage with creative projects?
So why do I continue with this rush?
Is it a case of a missed opportunity?
Should we just cancel? Or perhaps pause and take stock?

I was never good at running and in last year’s rush I decided to focus on what I’m good at – observe, reflect, listen. Did I fulfil my promise? Yes – it comes rather naturally to me to observe and reflect on my surroundings. Did I stop my constant and, most probably, over-production?

I walked in circles, up and down, repeatedly in the morning, afternoon and evening. I walked from one room to the other, chasing the best connection, with a glass of water in hand and my earphones dangling from my laptop, following me around. I walked again in circles, up and down, when a series of clouds waved through the window. I went out on the terrace and as I felt their warmth, I greeted them back.

I walked again in circles, but not for long. I felt the need to taste the salty spray of the waves crashing on the rocks. I sat down and treasured the colour palette as the sun set over the horizon, but not for long. It was dark. I went back and walked in circles.

Living on The Rock
Living on The Rock – a blessing or a curse? Gozo 2020. Image by the author

The surroundings feel too chaotic and overpowering to even hear myself think. I was hoping to be able to revisit my creative practice but I was not in the right frame of mind. Now, more than ever, this need becomes urgent. I can’t wait to complete the current projects and the engagements I already committed to. I can’t wait for better times when travelling becomes a less stressful, and hopefully more sustainable, option to be able to move away, find a spot and look at The Rock objectively – to then return or move on.

Malta, March 2021