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Now-Time Venezuela, Part 1: Worker-Controlled Factories / MATRIX 220

March 26, 2006 - May 28, 2006

Dario Azzellini and Oliver Ressler: 5 Factories--Worker Control in Venezuela, 2006 (video still); courtesy of the artists.

Download the exhibition brochure (PDF) in English or Spanish.

Since 1998, a broad-based popular movement under the leadership of Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian government has been effecting sweeping changes in all levels of Venezuelan life and in the field of international power relations. The six projects in the new MATRIX cycle Now-Time Venezuela: Media Along the Path of the Bolivarian Process are in solidarity with this revolutionary process. They will constitute a yearlong cycle of material that, from an expanded field of cultural production, both documents and contributes to Bolivarian Venezuela’s revolutionary political, economic, and cultural transformations.

The first project consists of a newly commissioned multiscreen projection by Dario Azzellini and Oliver Ressler on the subject of worker-controlled factories. Encouraged by supportive legislation and the withdrawal of transnational corporations, worker occupations and resulting cooperative or comanagement schemes have become an important feature of Venezuela’s new social and political landscape. Last fall, with cameraman Volkmar Geiblinger, Ressler and Azzellini recorded extensive interviews in five occupied factories in different Venezuelan cities. In both content and form (direct address by workers and the absence of a “mastering” voice-over), the resulting work touches upon the themes of “social protagonism” and participation that are key features of the movement that put Chávez’s government in power seven years ago and have sustained it through present-day plans for a socialism for the twenty-first century.

If the current governmental slogan “Venezuela, ahora es de todos” (“Now Venezuela is everybody’s”) signals the implicit internationalism of the Bolivarian movement—its present and potential links to the struggles of a global multitude—the Now-Time cycle of MATRIX exhibitions locates itself in line with that ambition. Not only does the cycle aim to circulate within Venezuela as information and encouragement for citizens and workers, but it will also operate on an international front, beginning in Berkeley, to establish lateral connections with other struggles and as a corrective to the misinformation about Venezuela from the mainstream media.

On a secondary level, too, the Now-Time cycle contributes to a theory about art and its relation to political activism: along with attempting to reposition art closer to the media’s information-bearing capacities and efficacy, it recognizes the need for activist representational strategies that do not merely document but also contribute to their subjects. Such projects may be aligned or simply engaged with their social struggles, but in both cases they reflect a migration of meaningful creativity to a space that is “in front of” rather than “behind” the lens. It is on such real-world transformations—in particular the reworking of political and economic relations—that effective cultural agency depends. Future episodes in the Now-Time cycle will bring together works by media collectives and worker-produced videos that constitute an incitement and encouragement to this process of people taking power in Venezuela and internationally.

Chris Gilbert
Phyllis Wattis MATRIX Curator

The MATRIX Program at the UC Berkeley Art Museum is made possible by the generous endowment gift of Phyllis C. Wattis.

Additional donors to the MATRIX Program include the UAM Council MATRIX Endowment and Glenn and April Bucksbaum.