An artist against all odds
When the oil prices dropped, Venezuela’s economy went to ruins. Its export earnings rely on the income oil the country brings by 95 percent. Due to the 2014 drop, production in the country halted. There have been shortages of consumer goods like food and medicine, which has led to inflation. Since then, the poverty line has increased by 90 percent, and the Venezuelan people say enough is enough.
Jose Antonio Blanco, a local artist, was one of thousands of people in Venezuela who took to the streets to protest and hold the ones in power responsible for the shortage and inflation of food and medicine prices.
In 2002, Blanco witnessed one of the many riots that took place on the streets of Venezuela. He was recording the turmoil with his video camera when he, along with hundreds of other Venezuelans, was arrested by the police. The police kept him in a cell where they tortured and beat him for 48 hours.
Blanco was released on the condition that he would have to pay for his freedom. He considers himself fortunate that he was able to do so, unlike the thousands of other prisoners who are still there to this day.
Blanco realized in the moment of his release that he needed to expose the harsh realities of the violent riots that take place everyday in Venezuela. Armed with only a phone to record, he took to the streets to yet again risk his life to retrieve evidence. Blanco decided this was the best way to be discreet about capturing these terrifying moments.
He travelled back and forth from the United States to Venezuela to bring attention to what was happening in his country, but he soon moved to the United States to seek asylum from the government forces and the violence of the riots that took place everyday.
Using video footage and voice recordings he took in various riots, Blanco used his artistic skills to produce a “multimedia experience” that would immerse any viewer in the horror of the reality of life in such a volatile environment.
He explained that he was hopeful that this experience would really open the eyes of the people watching his piece to the atrocities taking place in Venezuela.
“My impulsive nature and artistic background drove me to try to expose what is happening in my country to people that would not know what is going on otherwise,” Blanco said
He presented an exhibit of his artwork on Friday, April 5 at The Box Gallery in Lake Worth, Florida. His work featured various pictures of shocking moments of warfare and violence going on between the Venezuelan police and protesters.
Pictures of cars being set on fire and videos of young men and women being beaten and handcuffed were presented in his video while protest chants filled the room. Watching the video seemed to bring the riots and the chaos into the room.
Blanco explained that he included as many media elements as he could to reproduce the feelings he had when he was in those situations.
“The majority of the background noise in my presentation came live from the riots that were taking place and were easily recorded without being too obvious to the police,” Blanco said.
He said he is lucky that he survived those times to be able use his artistic ability to bring awareness of the hardships thousands of Venezuelans still go through today.
By Isabella Pinel