Javier Téllez and Pedro Morales were originally chosen for Venezuela's pavilion. Téllez withdrew his participation in February 2003 in protest against the government's politics (see his open letter).
After this, Pedro Morales was supposed to exhibit on his own. Shortly before the biennial began, his work aroused the displeasure of the Venezuelan cultural administration. It was therefore not allowed to be shown, and the Venezuelan pavilion remained closed.
Pedro Morales talked to us about this in an interview:
On 31 January 2003, he received the news that he had been selected
by the jury as one of two artists who were to represent Venezuela
at the Venice Biennial. In March he was asked to broaden his proposal
because the other artist, Javier Téllez, had withdrawn.
Again and again, budget problems were pointed out to him. But
Morales was successful in obtaining the funds from the private
At the beginning of May, he was asked to remove some pictures,
or to replace some of the conflict-laden contents. Morales replied
that "not a pixel" of his work would be changed, because
it "is already finished, and I am proud of what I am submitting".
It was only through the press that he learned of an official communiqué,
dated 22 May, which stated that the Deputy Minister of Culture
had canceled the participation of Morales in the Venice Biennial,
and therefore that of Venezuela, because he sees in Morales’
work an attack upon the country’s image.
In response to our question about the contents found to be at
fault, Morales described his work to us and gave a few examples
as to the absurdity of such accusations:
His work entitled "City Rooms" is an interactive media
piece through which the observer moves, whereby different elements
are activated in each room. The contents are of a social nature,
and range from political, to sexual, to religious, and also include
humor, fate and violence.
In one sequence, a 1 Bolívar coin spins in a room, and
at some point is surrounded by buzzing flies. The expression "mosca"
(fly) is used in Venezuela in the sense of "warning".
But as Morales explained, this was interpreted by officials as
though the Libertador (Liberator, the honorary name for Simón
Bolívar, whose head appears on the coin) were being presented
as "garbage" or worse. Officials even declared that
his work called for the murder of the president. And this because
of a sequence which shows the president as a puppet from the Muppet
Show, being hit by a woman over the head with a cooking pot.
Morales sums up: "Ironically, at this biennial with the
theme "The Viewer's Dictatorship", it was the official
observer of culture in Venezuela who censored my work."
Regarding the bands of flags with which the pavilion was blocked
off, the artist explained that they came from an association in
Venezuela that calls itself "People of Culture". At
their protests, members carry these, sewn together so as to create
true streams of flags. "They gave me these flags as a sign
More information by Universes in Universe:
Venezuela - Venice Biennale 2009
Daniel Medina, Bernardita Rakos, Magdalena Fernández, Colectivo Todos somos creadores
Venezuela - 49th Venice Biennial, 2001
The visual arts of Venezuela in Universes in Universe.
Venezuela: Artist's index
The artists from Venezuela in Universes in Universe.