On the Walls and the Web, A Venezuelan Art Collective Supports Socialism

Mural by Army for the Freedom of Communication. Image used with permission.

Art is a notoriously powerful political weapon. In Venezuela, a group calling itself the “Ejército Comunicacional de Liberación” (the “Army for the Freedom of Communication”) is using graffiti and other forms of visual art to support the Bolivarian Revolution, a leftist social movement launched by late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. The organization reappropriates urban spaces with paintings, reclaiming the walls of buildings for local communities.

The ECL promotes urban interventions on its blog, No Sabemos Disparar (We Don't Know How to Shoot), where the group says it pursues three main goals:

Ejército Comunicacional de Liberación es una fuerza en formación y reformulación constante; un puñado de jóvenes alzados en armas de papel quienes, mediante la comunicación popular, apuestan por el desarrollo de una nueva estética consciente y responsable en función de la promoción clara y efectiva de mensajes que contribuyan con procesos de transformación social y redistribución de la riqueza. Nuestra acciones y productos siguen tres líneas fundamentales: agitación, formación y sustentabilidad.

The Ejército Comunicacional de Liberación is a force of constant information and reformulation; a handful of young people taking up “paper arms,” who, by means of popular communication, are committed to developing new, mindful, and responsible aesthetics that will clearly and effectively support social transformation and wealth redistribution in Venezuela. Our actions follow three fundamentals: excitement, formation, and sustainability.

The ECL also conducts training activities in collaboration with other groups and communities around Venezuela. These exercises take place in public spaces, like the one pictured below in Elorza, in the state of Apure:

En Elorza

Elorza, March 2014

En el marco de las fiestas de Elorza 2014 tuvimos la oportunidad de rendir un humilde homenaje a el comandante eterno junto a los convives de SOU, SUC, Otro Beta y Nueva Casika, nos hubiese gustado hacer más, pero estamos seguros que vendrán nuevas oportunidades.

During the Elorza 2014 festivities, we had the opportunity to pay a humble tribute to the comandante eterno [the “eternal commander,” the late Hugo Chavez], and engage with the SOU, SUC, Otro Beta, and Nueva Casika [other art collectives that produce similar murals]. We would like to have accomplished more, but we're sure there will be other opportunities.

Mural Elorza

A tribute to late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

The ECL's murals are spreading quickly throughout Venezuela, and many are now found in the country's capital. The mural pictured below is located in Maca, a district of Caracas. This particular painting was created to raise awareness about pollution, drawing attention to the local city council's failure to dispose of waste properly.

El problema de la basura aquí en Maca, es que los vecinos que viven en la parte de arriba aprovechan cuando llueve y lanzan la basura a la calle para que el agua las arrastre, esto hace que se ensucie la calle y se tapen las alcantarillas. Sería bueno que la gente botara la basura donde es y no en cualquier parte.

When it comes to trash disposal here in Maca, the people who live uphill, in the neighboring town, take advantage of the rain and throw their garbage into the streets for the water to wash it away, which leaves us with filthy streets and clogged sewers. It would be best if people threw their trash where they are supposed to and not just anywhere.

No tires basura

“Dispose of litter properly, don't just throw it away. Think of the rest of us.”

The ECL's blog features photographs from additional gatherings, as well, like an event to make bulletin boards about local news and events in Los Erasos and Santa Rosa, other districts in Caracas:

Periódico Mural 2

Putting together bulletin boards about local community news.

Periódico mural realizado en el Barrios los Erasos y Santa Rosa

An ECL-produced bulletin board in the neighborhood of Erasos and Santa Rosa, in Caracas.

The ECL has also staged interventions on building walls in cities. One such action, shown below, took place in San Juan Parrish, Caracas:

Intervención en la parroquia de San Juan

A mural in the San Juan parish.

The group also weighs in on the protests that have rocked Venezuela over the past months. In the painting below, the ECL criticizes the basis of the demonstrations in East Caracas, which the artists argue are pointless and unfocused (the protests in question are part of a larger nationwide street movement, which has called for the ouster of President Nicolás Maduro. The mural reads, “They won't be back,” meaning that the political elites of the pre-Chavez era can never return. 

Mural Chacao

A wall painted in the neighborhood of Chacao, Caracas.

Crítica a la irracionalidad de protestas sin objetivos. Intervenciones realizadas en las calles del este (Chacao y Altamira), donde supuestamente (los opositores) tienen el control absoluto, las paredes siguen siendo del pueblo. No volverán.   

Criticism of the irrational protests that had no purpose. In the East, the walls still belong to the people, as actions are carried out in the streets (of Chacao and Altamira), where they supposedly (the opponents) have absolute control. They will not return.

The ECL's blog also contains artwork by similar groups located both inside and outside Venezuela. Videos of this content are uploaded to Vimeo, which the organizations use to underscore the highly visual nature of their social and political activism.

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