F: Phallic Forms

It goes without saying that objects that are formally similar may be conceptually, historically, and functionally very diverse. Curatorially and taxonomically, formal resemblance brings to the surface a number of issues: the possibility of kindred aesthetic responses to similar stimuli in different cultures or eras, the manifestation of deeper psychological, biological, or genetic traits, the perpetual risk of over-interpretation, the potential of ironic analogy, the ghost of formalism, and so on.

Phallic forms are a case in point. If a variety of phallic objects are compared to one another or placed in close proximity, does this mean that one elongated form might be a sign for all the others? Objects with phallic connotations tend to point to other, non-formal nuances of meaning, brimming over with ideas about masculinity, relations of power, gendered everyday objects, you name it. However, the possibility of coincidence remains very real indeed. Perhaps it is precisely the illogical disposition of objects with penile shapes that makes it possible for us to rethink their artistic and cultural meanings, connotations of power, and social or psychological undercurrents. How could we otherwise conceive of relations between what goes up, like high-rise buildings, and what comes down, like a bomb?

Stalactite from Gozitan cave, World War II bomb shell used as umbrella stand, hunting cartridge.
Photo: Alexandra Pace

“Campaign against High-Rise in Malta 2016–17.”
Photomontage by Daniel Cilia for Din l-Art Ħelwa