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Luis Primo (UNT) at the Berkeley Art Museum
Thursday, 30 March 2006

Before heading back to Caracas after his multi-city West coast tour, Luis Primo, member of the expanded National Coordinating Committee of the UNT, had the opportunity to preview a new art exhibit at the Berkeley Art Museum (BAM). The exhibit, "Now-Time Venezuela", is the first in a six-part cycle exploring the revolutionary changes taking place in Venezuela, and the intersection between revolutionary social change and art.

The beautifully produced exhibit consists of six short films, each running on a continuous loop, which can be watched in succession on individual floating screens and listened to on high-quality headphones. The accompanying exhibit guides are designed to look like the booklets of laws and decrees that can be seen everywhere in Venezuela. The exhibit thoughtfully combines the quiet, peaceful atmosphere of the museum's clean, white walls and simple benches, with the vibrant color and revolutionary spirit of the films themselves.

luis primo dario azzellini

Film-maker Dario Azzellini and Luis Primo at the BAM exhibit, with ALCASA director Carlos Lanz on the screen behind them

Five of the films focus on five different Venezuelan factories being run either as cooperatives, under workers' co-management, or under workers' control. Set against a backdrop of factory towers and running machinery, the workers confidently speak for themselves about the profound social and economic changes they are directly participating in. The sixth and final film takes us into a managers' meeting at the ALCASA aluminum plant, where factory director Carlos Lanz and the rest of the democratically elected management team discuss a new way of running a factory, one that produces for social need, not individual profit. 

The footage was shot by the film-making team of Dario Azzellini and Oliver Ressler, whose first film "Venezuela from Below" has been an invaluable tool in educating people around the world as to the real processes taking place in Venezuela.  The 6 films that make up "Now-Time Venezuela" will be available in a few weeks' time as a single 81 minute film, which will provide people around the world with an intimate look at the "nuts and bolts" of the process of "co-gestion obrera" (workers co-management).

This important exhibit highlights the vital role art can and must play in the revolutionary process, and shows that "ordinary" people can make and enjoy real art, revolutionary art. 

As the BAM's MATRIX program curator Chris Gilbert explained, the project's main aim is to defend the Bolivarian Revolutionary process, but it also "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."  It invites the entire Berkeley community and indeed the whole of society to discuss the relationship between art and revolutionary change.

We extend our warmest gratitude to Karen Bennett, Chris Gilbert, Dario Azzellini, Oliver Ressler, and everyone else who opened up their hearts, art, minds, and museum to Luis Primo and the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign.  The discussions we had on Venezuela, art, workers' control, and revolution were a refreshing change of pace from the often stuffy, rarefied atmosphere of many modern art museums.  People from all walks of life attended the exhibit's dynamic and interactive premiere, including many that had never before set foot in the BAM.

luis primo berkeley art museum

Film-makers Oliver Ressler and Dario Azzellini, Luis Primo of the UNT, the Berkeley Art Museum's MATRIX program curator Chris Gilbert, and John Peterson of the US Hands Off Venezuela Campaign outside the BAM

This new cycle on Venezuela truly puts the Berkeley Art Museum on the cutting edge, and represents an important contribution to the vital discussion on the interrelationship between art and revolution.  Artistically, "Now-Time Venezuela" is both innovative and revolutionary, yet it remains down to earth and accessible to all. We enthusiastically invite everyone interested in Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution to pay a visit.

You can learn more about the BAM and "Now-Time Venezuela" by clicking here: http://www.bampfa.berkeley.edu/exhibits/nowtime/index.html

luis primo berkeley art museum
Luis Primo outside the Berkeley Art Museum
 
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