The British Council arranged for Alex May to run a two day Painting With Light workshop in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas, Venezuela.
Caracas is a tropical and vibrant capital city overlooked by the imposing Ávila mountain to the north. Cable cars and power lines thread across the roofs and up the steep mountainside from where the poorer barrios neighbourhoods nestle at the edges. These makeshift dwellings are beautiful to look at from a distance, with brightly painted exteriors by day, and forming sprawling blankets of lights by night.
There is an infectious intensity to the city and its people. Proud of its heroes and in political furore emerging from the mourning for its leader, there are shortages and protests, and regular reminders of guns, drugs, and crime, where petrol is cheaper than water, here in the third most dangerous city in the world.
This dark fact is unfortunate, but with the diligence and care of the British Council it was not in the least apparent during the visit. It’s not the first time I’ve been somewhere for the purposes of art where care must be taken (I was in Cairo when the second revolution started) though here I was advised not to leave the hotel unless by arranged car.
I was first invited to give an introductory talk at the Museum of Contemporary Art to explain a little about my artistic practise and Painting With Light. Afterwards I met some people who sadly hadn’t been able to get places in the workshop as it had been somewhat oversubscribed.
I then met the participants and we spent the first day of the workshop getting to know each other a little and learning the various features of the software. While the talk had simultaneous translation, the workshop required two diligent translators taking shifts, which slowed proceedings down though with patience all round we got through a long day.
For the second day of the workshop, I invited the participants to think about what aspect of Caracas was most aesthetically interesting to them. Some chose the architecture, others the flow of people and the transportation routes, and others chose nature. Groups were formed between people with common interests, and we then visited the gallery space inside the museum where we would be creating an video mapped installation for show to the public that night.
The packing crates had just returned from transporting an exhibition of Venezuelan art around the world, and now we would make them into art themselves!
Each group spent the afternoon organising and creating video content before we moved downstairs and set up the projectors.
As the groups began to map video onto the crates, they formed single installation: an impression of Caracas from different viewpoints by the participants, as people who live and work here.
I used a single video projector off to the side to fill in any areas where there were gaps between the groups projections.
We let the public in to see the finished installation and while I sidled off to the bar for a well deserved glass of wine, several of the participants kept working and adding to their projections.
It was a fantastic experience to be given the opportunity to visit Caracas and run a workshop there. Everyone was very friendly and enthusiastic about the Painting With Light project, and it was very exciting to work together with the participants to create an installation together in such a wonderful venue.
I would like to say a few thank you’s to:
VJ and Video Artist Ionee Waterhouse for the initial invitation and liaising with the British Council
To the British Council for facilitating my visit, especially Andreina Gómez for organising and looking after everything while I was in Caracas.
To the Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas, especially Auramarina Lazarde, for their time and facilities.
To the British Ambassador and Director of the British Council in Venezuela for their time and hospitality.
And to all the participants of the workshop who I hope enjoyed it and will go on to create more marvellous video mapping art. I look forward to seeing what you all get up to!