Art trumps politics in Venezuela

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Venezuela is a highly politicized, polarized society where verbal combat dominates radio, television, and sometimes spills into the streets or sucks in outsiders, as President Vicente Fox of Mexico in his spat with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez last November well knows. Politics at full blast represents public life in this South American country.

But an event yesterday in Caracas managed to break even some pretty strong politically charged waves in the public arena.

Spencer Tunick's mass—nudes art photo drew more attention than even a spectacular collapse of a strategic bridge near Caracas, and a lashing cadena, or televised speech, denouncing President Bush in English as a 'donkey' and 'drunkard.' The more interesting nudes photo was posted on Drudge and drew more hits on Yahoo than either of the two other events.

Sure, the casual news observer may dismiss the appeal of this art as a sign of the baseness of people, given that porn sites draw more hits on the Internet than news sites, or that news stories about cats draw more hits than news stories about summits. And the sight of thousands of naked people staring straight ahead in a primal tribe, at first glance, does disorientatingly recall temple monkeys in Bali or in Sri Lanka.

But Tunick's art did what art is supposed to do, which is make an impact.
Considerable areas of the insular modern art community do not do that. The sight of a thousand people in the buff for a temporary art installation — Turick said he was pleased at all the multi—hued shades of skin he was able to work with in Venezuela — naturally draws attention to the human form in a way that scrap metal or cardboard favored by many modern artists does not always do.

Two other aspects add to its merit. The art was large and public, something that is growing ever rarer in most urban centers in the world, where smaller, less accessible, and less intelligible pieces selected by arts elites increasingly dominate.

Tunick also uses the human form, something absent in many modern installations, and coincidentally, in the expressions of Islamist subgroups whose ideas about how society should be run are noteworthy for their inhumaneness. But the human form has never been absent from some 10,000 years of art historically, as leading San Diego artist A. Wasil has noted. The explicit use of nudes in art historically also has a link with the philosopny of humanism.

In light of this impact, how small the angry polarizing politics of Venezuela looks! This being the Internet age, it comes as no surprise that one of the thousand nudes in the photo wrote about the experience on the Internet afterward. Miguel Octavio was a participant in the installation and has described the event on his blog, further affirming the advance of art through the Internet.

Something rather major happened in Caracas over the weekend and it wasn't politics.

Monica Showalter 03 20 06

Venezuela is a highly politicized, polarized society where verbal combat dominates radio, television, and sometimes spills into the streets or sucks in outsiders, as President Vicente Fox of Mexico in his spat with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez last November well knows. Politics at full blast represents public life in this South American country.

But an event yesterday in Caracas managed to break even some pretty strong politically charged waves in the public arena.

Spencer Tunick's mass—nudes art photo drew more attention than even a spectacular collapse of a strategic bridge near Caracas, and a lashing cadena, or televised speech, denouncing President Bush in English as a 'donkey' and 'drunkard.' The more interesting nudes photo was posted on Drudge and drew more hits on Yahoo than either of the two other events.

Sure, the casual news observer may dismiss the appeal of this art as a sign of the baseness of people, given that porn sites draw more hits on the Internet than news sites, or that news stories about cats draw more hits than news stories about summits. And the sight of thousands of naked people staring straight ahead in a primal tribe, at first glance, does disorientatingly recall temple monkeys in Bali or in Sri Lanka.

But Tunick's art did what art is supposed to do, which is make an impact.
Considerable areas of the insular modern art community do not do that. The sight of a thousand people in the buff for a temporary art installation — Turick said he was pleased at all the multi—hued shades of skin he was able to work with in Venezuela — naturally draws attention to the human form in a way that scrap metal or cardboard favored by many modern artists does not always do.

Two other aspects add to its merit. The art was large and public, something that is growing ever rarer in most urban centers in the world, where smaller, less accessible, and less intelligible pieces selected by arts elites increasingly dominate.

Tunick also uses the human form, something absent in many modern installations, and coincidentally, in the expressions of Islamist subgroups whose ideas about how society should be run are noteworthy for their inhumaneness. But the human form has never been absent from some 10,000 years of art historically, as leading San Diego artist A. Wasil has noted. The explicit use of nudes in art historically also has a link with the philosopny of humanism.

In light of this impact, how small the angry polarizing politics of Venezuela looks! This being the Internet age, it comes as no surprise that one of the thousand nudes in the photo wrote about the experience on the Internet afterward. Miguel Octavio was a participant in the installation and has described the event on his blog, further affirming the advance of art through the Internet.

Something rather major happened in Caracas over the weekend and it wasn't politics.

Monica Showalter 03 20 06