Homeland’s Agenda, 2016

Ana Alenso & Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck
From the series Electoral Autocracy
HDTV Monitor, lamp and digital player installed on shopping cart; custom made seats; single channel HD video 30 min_stereo sound, Spanish with English subtitles. Installation size: approx. 122 x 148 x 102 cm, without custom made seats.

Paraphrasing Jean-Luc Nancy we might affirm the truth of violence and the violence of
truth. 1 The truth of violence is lived and can be mediated through moving images—blows to the head, emaciated bodies, gunfire, disease. The brute, idiotic truth of violence is that it never cares for others. The violence of truth, on the other hand, is eventual—it reopens common sense, cynical inertia, and untenable situations. It needs alliances to emerge—artists, philosophers, journalists, informed publics in good faith, honest mediatic regimes. The violence of truth is, if not revolutionary, revelatory, and it disturbs the present order. But what does it mean to know the truth of a situation—and for example, the current situation in Venezuela? Homeland’s Agenda attempts to focus on this with impelling urgency, but befitting the dire complexity of the country’s socio-politics, without offering easy answers. The work employs a general equivalence of media—public government broadcasting, propaganda, diverse Internet corporate news channels, pop music lyrics, video testimonials of disparate polish—so that each successive clip does not necessarily dominate the others. The result is a distillation of content, as form frequently coerces its own interpretation. The transcript provides a similar democraticization of content, revealing a complex situation that is otherwise impossible to experience for audiences not initiated in the local geopolitical context.

How one takes these stills from moving images depends on how one receives proper names—Bolívar, Chavez, Maduro, Capriles—as well as where one stands in relation to the present possibilities or limitations of state Socialism, neoliberal economics, direct Democracy, and the communes (all of which being conditioned by one’s ideological position within mediatic ecologies of transparency or bias). All this to say that there are three major players: socialist governance that represents the people but is always in danger of falling into an authoritarian kleptocracy; a global neoliberal economy that tends to insist on being good medicine for states that do not fully consent to realpolitik pressures, setting up the conditions for communal failures and rising inequalities; and a demos that is both conceptually and geographically split between a genuine and fake left, the faux-populist opposition of elites, people opposing the government simply for reasons of survival, criminal gangs, and various rogues serving popular, state, or private interests.

Homeland’s Agenda also underscores the key objects at play: essential goods, medicine, guns, the Internet, natural resources, drugs, prisons, televisions, currency. The situation revolves around these objects as much as the macro ideological antagonisms described above. Within such times of crisis, perhaps these objects demonstrate a cracking open of the commodity fetish and its attendant culture. Within conditions of hyperinflation, one can no longer pretend that money is a miraculous object (it becomes simply paper that can be torn up like any other). More broadly, it can no longer be ignored that it is commodities that mediate social relations (at the expense of other relations, or even objects of need). Once this becomes manifest, the smooth functioning of an economy based on heedless consumption falters, revealing the normally disavowed perversity of, say, the availability of luxury goods among intense hunger and privation.

The source materials span from 2011 to 2016 and bear witness to the development of a humanitarian crisis and ensuing civil protests of national scale that have prompted
governmental repression though the police, military, and the media in 2017.

Arnaud Gerspach, New York, June 2017

1 Jean-Luc Nancy, “Image and Violence,” in The Ground of the Image (New York: Fordham University
Press, 2005).

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