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50th Venice Biennale
15 June - 2 November 2003

Venice / 2003 / Report / Pavilions


Venezuela: censored pavilion

Pedro Morales

Venezuela: censored pavilion

Javier Téllez and Pedro Morales were originally chosen for Venezuela's pavilion. Téllez withdrew his participation in February 2003 in protest against the government's politics (see his open letter).

After this, Pedro Morales was supposed to exhibit on his own. Shortly before the biennial began, his work aroused the displeasure of the Venezuelan cultural administration. It was therefore not allowed to be shown, and the Venezuelan pavilion remained closed.

Pedro Morales talked to us about this in an interview:

On 31 January 2003, he received the news that he had been selected by the jury as one of two artists who were to represent Venezuela at the Venice Biennial. In March he was asked to broaden his proposal because the other artist, Javier Téllez, had withdrawn. Again and again, budget problems were pointed out to him. But Morales was successful in obtaining the funds from the private sector.

At the beginning of May, he was asked to remove some pictures, or to replace some of the conflict-laden contents. Morales replied that "not a pixel" of his work would be changed, because it "is already finished, and I am proud of what I am submitting". It was only through the press that he learned of an official communiqué, dated 22 May, which stated that the Deputy Minister of Culture had canceled the participation of Morales in the Venice Biennial, and therefore that of Venezuela, because he sees in Morales’ work an attack upon the country’s image.

In response to our question about the contents found to be at fault, Morales described his work to us and gave a few examples as to the absurdity of such accusations:

His work entitled "City Rooms" is an interactive media piece through which the observer moves, whereby different elements are activated in each room. The contents are of a social nature, and range from political, to sexual, to religious, and also include humor, fate and violence.

In one sequence, a 1 Bolívar coin spins in a room, and at some point is surrounded by buzzing flies. The expression "mosca" (fly) is used in Venezuela in the sense of "warning". But as Morales explained, this was interpreted by officials as though the Libertador (Liberator, the honorary name for Simón Bolívar, whose head appears on the coin) were being presented as "garbage" or worse. Officials even declared that his work called for the murder of the president. And this because of a sequence which shows the president as a puppet from the Muppet Show, being hit by a woman over the head with a cooking pot.

Morales sums up: "Ironically, at this biennial with the theme "The Viewer's Dictatorship", it was the official observer of culture in Venezuela who censored my work."

Regarding the bands of flags with which the pavilion was blocked off, the artist explained that they came from an association in Venezuela that calls itself "People of Culture". At their protests, members carry these, sewn together so as to create true streams of flags. "They gave me these flags as a sign of solidarity".


More information by Universes in Universe:

Venezuela - Venice Biennale 2009
Daniel Medina, Bernardita Rakos, Magdalena Fernández, Colectivo Todos somos creadores

Venezuela - 49th Venice Biennial, 2001

Venezuela: Art
The visual arts of Venezuela in Universes in Universe.

Venezuela: Artist's index
The artists from Venezuela in Universes in Universe.

Giardini di Castello,
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The pavilion remained closed.

Commissioner, curator:
Maria Luz Cárdenas

Javier Cerisola
Vivian Rivas

Pedro Morales
* 1958 Maracaibo, Venezuela.
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