“The loss of quality that is so evident at every level of spectacular language, from the objects it glorifies to the behavior it regulates, stems from the basic nature of a production system that shuns reality.”
The Venezuelan pavilion at the Biennale is usually mentioned because of its architecture. As one of the more significant pieces of architecture among the National Pavilions, it was designed by renowned Italian architect Carlo Scarpa and was among the first pavilions to be built. A fact made possible through the spectacle needed to show the world the power and richness of a modern country under the polemical Dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez. The pavilion was built between 1954-1955 and in 1956 it received its first delegation. In 1958 democracy returned to Venezuela and for decades Venezuela displayed important curators and artists from the national landscape generally freed from critical proposals with very particular explorations and very good reception by high culture and institutional art collecting circles in Venezuela, nevertheless under an elevated atmosphere of criticism questioning the selection methods.
During the 90s, the liberal democratic system deteriorated, the social crisis increased and people’s poverty and insecurity rose, conditions distinctly captured in 1995 by Meyer Vaisman, when designated to represent Venezuela at the Biennial. However, his proposal was never executed as he resigned after institutional doubts about the convenience of showing the precarious conditions of subsistence of Venezuelan people, which would imply showing the defeat of a democratic system. His proposal represented the socio-economical crisis that was devastating the country. This system collapsed in 1998 with the so-called pink tide socialist reform of Hugo Chávez, known as the Bolivarian Revolution.
New processes began to re-define cultural structures with apparent open politics in order to break with elitist’s individualism in favor of the masses. An initiative that resulted in the annulment of the autonomy of museums by centralization in order to gain total control over activities, which are, nowadays, compulsory related to government affections. The pronounced political division of the country that has plunged it into an abyss has turned out to be reflected in art: high art being despised by a disguised folk art.
Consequently in 2003, Pedro Morales is chosen to represent Venezuela at the Biennial after a national open call. However, the infiltrated work denounced the new socio-political reality that was thrashing the country. It was subsequently censored by the government, annihilating freedom of expression and ironically placing a banner announcing the closure of the pavilion due to restoration.
Finally in 2013, with the recent Chávez decease, Venezuelan representation demonstrates political proselytism camouflaged by anonymous street art; a manifestation supposedly discriminated for being subversive, but displaying completely official messages from the Bolivarian revolution.
Worldwide the Venice Biennale is associated with structures of power and the spectacle of appearances, sometimes even regardless of art. The Venezuelan pavilion through time could be understood as radiography of symptomatic socio-political conditions, which have expressed themselves from within every leading ideology, through regulations of methods of selection to favor the glorification of a sometimes disguised reality. Is it possible that an unregulated cultural critique of a revolution is the most revolutionary thing to do?Lourdes Peñaranda