Why art biennales are (mostly) rubbish

Should you visit Malta this spring, you may notice something decidedly weird is afoot. Across the public squares of its capital, Valletta, performance artists are blocking busy thoroughfares and causing havoc on packed café terraces. The Hospitaller and British military forts that dominate the capital’s famous harbour, meanwhile, are full of dysfunctional installation work, while the curio-filled vitrines of local museums are forced to compete with video art. Even the Grandmaster’s Palace – for centuries the country’s seat of power – has accommodated several dozen mini-exhibitions on the theme of ‘the Matri-archive of the Mediterranean’. As more than one artist showing work in these places told me, the venues were