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Art & Social Space
Caracas Case Project: Informal Urban Culture
by Karina Sainz Borgo

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Potrc y Esakov

Potrc y Esakov

Sabine Müller y Andreas Quednau

Sabine Müller y Andreas Quednau

Sabine Bitter y Helmut Weber

Feliz Madrazo and Elena Chetchencko

Discussions and debates
There are pieces in the exhibition whose political content or manner of approximation has fostered debate, not only in formal but also in ideological terms, stimulated to a certain extent by local sensitivity due to the countryí­s current complex political, economic and social experience. Included among these pieces are Caracas, hecho en Venezuela, by the Austrian artists Sabine Bitter and Helmut Weber, consisting of three parts: 23 de Enero/Constitución, an aerial photograph of the "23 de Enero", a group of buildings located in Western Caracas, built during the military regime of Marcos Pérez Jiménez under the name "2 de diciembre" and subsequently renamed "23 de Enero", the date on which the dictatorship was overthrown. These buildings have traditionally represented a mythical political resistance movement associated with groups of urban insurgents, mixing the modernist architecture with the buildingsí­ progressive physical decay and the poverty and complexity of the social relationships between their inhabitants. A picture of this group of buildings, exhibited in a metro station, was altered by Bitter and Weber through a program which reconstructed the image, using characters of text belonging to the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, approved in 1999 during the term of the current President Hugo Chávez. By establishing a government with revolutionary pretensions, President Chavez now faces a conflictive social and political situation. This work also includes a video and four printed drawings of public demonstrations digitally manipulated in the manner of a sketch. The Mexican Feliz Madrazo and the Ukranian Elena Chetchencko, with El orden por venir, emphasize the role of architecture and its relationship with organized forms of community participation networks. Raúl Zélik, with Utópico: La invisibilidad no es casual, creates a kind of written log and a video which contribute an appreciation of religious cults, architecture and social relationships within the 23 de Enero blocks.

In an overall summary, CCSTT coordinator Matí­as Pintó feels that the showcase is comprehensive and covers all kinds of proposals and ideologies, even though, in his opinion, a reading could have been added providing further elements on problems already dealt with, such as marginality and its trend toward disorderly expansion. According to researcher William Niño, the showcase becomes part of the "contemporary readings of the city" and contributes a "rediscovery of the contemporary landscape", although one which is not exempt from a "romantic European anthropologist" vision of the city. "Many scholarship students are not aware that they have been polarized by other views. On risking oneself to discover a territory one needs a guide and, in some cases, many of the views have been filtered by guiding lights", he comments. Convinced that by submitting a work "to the delirium of a guiding view" one runs the danger of transforming it into a pamphlet, Niño assumes that from the exhibition one can obtain "some pamphlets of artists who learned to look through othersí­ eyes". Niño assumes, however, that precisely due to this contradiction, there is a streak of analysis, and that ‘the negotiation between external and internal readings is interesting; the contrast between the vision of the ‘Romantic European anthropologist" and our internal reading, as pained psychopaths, inhabitants of a land in conflict, where "informality" has become architecturalized, and "formality" has lost the battle".

Ruth Auerbach, director of the Sala Mendoza and a curator with extenisive experience in studying the configuration of local narratives and the urban setting believes that if the exhibition hall is a space for exchange, then this exhibition has succeeded. For Auerbach, in a deeply polarized country, in a polarized urban setting, the art space could represent a path for bringing extremes together and contributing to dialogue, as well as posing new questions for study of the "informal" and "unsanctioned" city as a dismantling plan for modernity.

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About the Author
Karina Sainz Borgo is a Journalist specializing in cultural matters. Ms. Sainz Borgo has worked for the El Nacional newspaper, the magazine Primicia and as collaborator for various publications.

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