(When I was in Bonn last week, I got the chance to meet Carmen Victoria Méndez, a journalist who used to cover the Caracas arts beat for El Nacional and Tal Cual. Carmen is now living in Germany, but her heart is in Venezuela, just like ours. This is a guest post from her. The pictures were selected by me from web searches of the artists’ works – I hope I have done justice to their talent)
I used to have a Sunday ritual while living in Caracas: visiting art shows.
I think that is what I miss most about the city I was born in. Don’t take me wrong: Bonn, where I live right now, and Berlin, where I enjoy most of my weekends, are obviously great places for art and culture. But unlike in Caracas, in Germany the vernissages do not take place on Sundays.
In Caracas, that is the only time when we have time, when we can take a breather from our toxic existence.
I used to spend Sunday mornings in Centro de Artes Los Galpones, Hacienda La Trinidad Parque Cultural, the galleries around Las Mercedes, and even in El Anexo de San Bernardino, an independent place where art pieces are displayed inside a curator’s apartment. Such is the arts scene in Caracas – ubiquitous, yet somehow hidden.
Despite the political, economic and social chaos, we still have vernissages in Caracas. This is not a paradox – art is the way some people choose to survive, overcome, and -why not say it- evade our country’s crisis. But the arts scene does not live in a bubble.
In the last five years, the arts scene has been fed a healthy dose of reality. One notices this mostly on the topics the artists are choosing, as well as in the materials they are using. The lack of imported goods, for example, has meant regular acrilyc paintings are a luxury.
If I could fly there tomorrow, I would visit “Caracas 2014“, an exhibit of works by Nelson Garrido, Teresa Mulet, Violette Bule, Miguel Von Dangel, Consuelo Méndez, and other great artists, currently in Galería D’ Museo.
I would also make my way to “Contra Paisaje”, hosted by El Anexo, featuring works by Claudio Perna, Nayarí Castillo and others. Finally, “Yo, mi compañía, photos by Paul Kerese Riveros“, in Fudalamas (Petare), would be also be an attractive option.
“Caracas 2014” gives us the chance to think about a city that sees its own citizens as hostile invaders. According to the curators, Alberto Asprino and Nicomedes Febres, the idea was to reunite both young and mature artists, and allow them to show the capital where they work and live from a personal perspective.
Violence is one the topics presented, and in that regard, the approach of Teresa Mulet to the high murder rates is particularly elocuent. She counts each one of the 24.730 murders registred in Venezuela in 2013 through an installation made of acetate sheets. She also shows a corpse made of resine, under the title “Cada-ver-es, Cada-vez-más”, a Spanish pun roughly translated as “dead bodies, ever more.”
Violette Bule and Juan Toro approach violence through photography. Bule recreates a recent episode: a truck driver died in an accident while a group of people stole the goods inside the vehicle instead of trying to help him, something Caracas Chronicles covered. Toro (no relation to Quico) takes a more political approach: he printed a tear-gas bomb several times on photographic paper, a clear alusion to the recents riots and the military repression.
Architecture, urban memories, and the constant transformation of public places are also included in the exhibit’s topics through the works of artists like Ali González, who reveals to us the damages some icons of modernity have suffered over time due to a lack of maintenance. It’s art as a form of protest in its purest form.
The nicer face of Caracas, a city which rich ecological diversity, is showed in Hayfer Brea’s photographic landscapes of El Ávila and the approximation of the different kinds of flowers created by Consuelo Méndez, who mixes painting and photography.
“Contra paisaje” is more focused on the different approaches to the territory that people can have, focusing on the visual representation of landscapes through words, and it is not circumscribed to Caracas alone. Nayarí Castillo, a Venezuelan artist currently living in Germany, recreates a landscape of a place we have not visited through news about the place, an active use of the imagination. There is also Ara Koshiro, whose idea of territory is made of text, not taking images or even colors into account. Words are also present in María Virginia Pineda Aranda’s “landscapes.”
The exhibition also reminds us that Claudio Perna (who died in 1997) was not only a great conceptual artist but also a geographer, one who included aerial views in his works. Corrado Pittari, one the other hand, collected some water in differents places, and displays them as a poetic way of rememorize towns and cities.
Finally, in “Yo, mi compañía”, Pal Kerese Riveros uses the photographic self-portrait as an approach to the topic of loneliness and being self, but with differents world cities like Nueva York, Londres, Madrid and Bercelona as scenery.
It’s easy to forget that Caracas still has an active arts scene. Yet this should not surprise us. After all, Caracas is a city of five million people, and wherever there are humans, there will always be art, no matter what the government says.