Freddy Ñáñez: “Hay reconocimiento a la diversidad política dentro del arte” / María Angelina Castillo Borgo

Freddy Ñáñez: “There’s an acknowledgement of political diversity within art”

[Photo: Leonardo Guzmán]

He was born in the Petare zone of Caracas, but spent a great part of his life in the Andes region of Venezuela. Freddy Ñáñez is a poet, puppeteer and for three years he has been the director of the Fundación para la Cultura y las Artes (FUNDARTE), which is financed by the office of the mayor of the Libertador district of Caracas. He has published collections of poetry such as Todos los instantes (2000), Un millón de pájaros muertos (2004) and Postal de sequía, which won the Bienal José Antonio Ramos Sucre in 2009.

In his office, at the Parque Central towers, the atmosphere is hectic. Everyone is busy with details for the Festival de Teatro de Caracas, which began last Friday and continues until March 10th. A poster with Hugo Chávez’s face on it hangs behind the door, next to the acrylic whiteboards where the week’s activities are written out. The breeze, at times quite strong, comes in through the lateral window and reminds visitors that they’re on the top floor of the building.

You’ve said that the Festival de Teatro de Caracas is part of the city’s transformation. What does that mean?
Until now, there’d been a preponderance of places with consumption as the only cultural offering. Now we’re revaluing public space, where you exercise abstract categories such as democracy, free transit, freedom of expression. But in order to do this we had to reconstruct not just the physical aspects —more than a million square meters have been recovered— but it’s also a task of subjectivity in which affection becomes identity.

Within this project of recuperating public spaces, are you considering building alliances with other zones of the city?
There’s a problem here with how the city is conceived and how it expresses itself. For us, culture has to be a right, as the Constitution says. Maybe in certain mayorships the liberal vision of the arts proposes that man is free, even in conditions of inequality, to resolve his problem of intellectual development. That’s the thesis of liberalism, in other words, of Smith and all those people who say that I have the same conditions as the media mogul Gustavo Cisneros to attend a cultural event. The liberal vision is one of public spending, while the revolutionary one means investing in the social.

Could you discuss both visions of cultural management further?
The liberal vision decontextualizes the individual artist from his place of origin and turns him into an individual whose only tie to the spectator is the market. In the vision of the left, art is an event that occurs within the individual, that’s in a harmonic and dialectical correspondence with its historical context. For us the work of art is a social good that is relegitimized the more one has access to it. In the liberal case, the work is a product whose value is subscribed to the price the works might have.

That brings up a topic: subsidies...
The State has the direct responsibility of guaranteeing the necessary conditions for the creation and the preservation of the national identity, that artists might be able to work.

When the Ministry of Culture stops subsidizing some theater companies, such as the Grupo Actoral 80, isn’t it failing to live up to its responsibility?
The subsidy model that the CONAC [Consejo Nacional de la Cultura] had years ago exhausted itself because it didn’t generate what it was seeking, it remained in the realm of patronage. As for the Grupo Actoral 80 there’s no reason for them not to receive a subsidy or support from the State, unless the company marks a distance and says it’s not interested in those politics. I think art and love are the only spaces where one can inhabit difference in a creative manner.

Does the National System of Popular Cultures substitute the figure of the subsidies?
That system was created to strengthen the financial resources that are destined toward the talent and the products of artists. Truly, it means subsidizing creation but with a social incentive, because the resources the Ministry of Culture handles should be of public interest.

Is there room for self-criticism within the revolutionary vision?
I think the self-criticism that flourishes within the revolution has more of an impact than the criticism that comes from opposition intellectuals. On the left you can see the website Aporrea or the newspaper Ciudad CCS itself, you can read Vladimir Acosta or Luis Britto García. I think we are freer from dogmatism than the approaches of the right.

Dogmatism doesn’t exist in the revolution?
Our revolution is ample. You can see that a strong Marxist component exists, but also a Christian one; there’s a great charge of thinkers such as Simón Bolívar, Antonio José de Sucre, Simón Rodríguez, Ezequiel Zamora; alongside a reference point from the struggles that were waged against [the dictators] José Vicente Gómez, Marcos Pérez Jiménez and the armed resistance against so-called Puntofijismo [during the sixties and seventies]. Our revolution is that plural.

Within that plurality, what happens with the person who thinks differently?
There’s an acknowledgement of political diversity within art. The key is to respect the Constitution. We face the problem of meeting within a common program. We should create politics that don’t place the interest of management within individualisms. In cultural matters, this revolution has benefitted more people than it’s harmed.

Do you think polarization exists in the theater?
What exists is the confrontation of two models for the country. The most democratic exercise is to be found in the theater, because one goes to see two truths that confront each other, to see how the tragedy is resolved.

If the country were a play, how would the tragedy be resolved?
I don’t think it should conclude, because that would be the end of democracy. I think there’ll be a growth of political consciousness and that will have an effect on both education and culture. We need a being who will transcend the media and who will become the event. All of us Venezuelans should feel privileged regarding the democracy we have.

A Glance At the Other Festival

Freddy Ñáñez mentions that he didn’t used to attend the Festival Internacional de Teatro de Caracas very often because he didn’t have the money to buy tickets. “Now I can afford some of them,” he says.

The president of FUNDARTE affirms that the relationship with the organizers of the FITC is one of coexistence, that the enmity between them and the Festival de Teatro de Caracas is more of a media creation than anything. However, he points out that there are some incompatibilities in regards to cultural vocation: “In order to support the Festival Internacional de Teatro de Caracas we would have to participate in its very conception, but they base themselves on the ideological precepts of the market and we have to guarantee that what we invest in cultural matters is the optimum. In that sense, there’s not much we can do there. Notwithstanding, as far as coexistence, I think we’re doing well. We emphasize national theater and they, without meaning to, complement that labor with a politics of international theater. I believe in the proliferation of festivals, in a sincere opening-up.”

{ María Angelina Castillo Borgo, El Nacional, 25 February 2013 }

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