Olivier Ressler



Oliver Ressler and Dario Azzellini, «Comuna Under Construction», 2010. Courtesy the artists.
Oliver Ressler and Dario Azzellini, «Comuna Under Construction», 2010. Courtesy the artists.

“Venezuela from Below”, 2004 (with Dario Azzellini)
Video, color, sound, 67’

In Venezuela, a profound social transformation identified as the Bolivarian process has been underway since Hugo Chávez’s governmental takeover in 1998. It concerns a broad process of self-organization, from which has developed a progressive constitution, a labor law, new educational possibilities, and a number of further reforms for the impoverished majority of the population of what is potentially a wealthy state. The government’s politics, which take an open stance against neo-liberalism, have experienced vehement rejection from Venezuela’s major private industries and from the U.S., expressed in two attempted coups and boycotts. Nonetheless, Chávez and his government enjoy the trust of the majority of the population. The society is heavily politicized; many people who had never before thought of what they wanted to change are now a part of a profound transformation taking place in the country.

In the film “Venezuela from Below,” the true actors in the social process are able to speak: the grassroots. They are the philosopher Carlos Lazo, workers from the oil company PDVSA in Puerto La Cruz, several farmers from a newly founded cooperative in Aragua, a women’s bank project in Miranda, indígena community members, protagonists in the revolutionary movement Tupamaro, and many more; they all speak about what they did and what they are doing, how they feel about the Bolivarian process, about their expectations and ideas. They see themselves as part of the process that is underway, but also problematize numerous points. The search for a social and economic model beyond neo-liberalism is no easy terrain; there are currently no successful, tested alternatives. The protagonists in the Bolivarian process have, however, set upon a path from which there is no return.

“5 Factories–Worker Control in Venezuela”, 2006 (with Dario Azzellini)
Video, color, sound, 81’

In their second film regarding political and social change in Venezuela, Azzellini and Ressler focus on the industrial sector. The changes in Venezuela's productive sphere are demonstrated with five large companies in various regions: a textile company, aluminium works, a tomato factory, a cocoa factory, and a paper factory. In all, the workers are struggling for different forms of co- or self-management supported by credits from the government. “The assembly is basically governing the company”, says Rigoberto López from the textile factory “Textileros del Táchira” in front of steaming tubs. And coning machine operator Carmen Ortiz summarizes the experience as follows: “Working collectively is much better than working for another–working for another is like being a slave to that other”.

The protagonists portrayed at the five production locations present insights into ways of alternative organizing and models of workers' control. Mechanisms and difficulties of self-organization are explained as well as the production processes. The portrayal of machine processes could be seen as a metaphor for the dream machine of the “Bolivarian process”, and the hopes and desires it inspires among the workers. The situation in the five factories varies, but they share the common search for better models of production and life. This not only means concrete improvements for the workers. Aury Arocha, laboratory analyst at the ketchup factory “Tomates Guárico”, emphasizes that the difference between “social production companies” (EPS) and capitalist corporations is that the EPS “work for the community and society”. Carlos Lanz, president of the second largest aluminium factory in Venezuela, Alcasa, coins the key question: “How does a company push toward socialism within a capitalist framework?” The film ends with an extended sequence from a management meeting at Alcasa, a company with 2.700 workers, with discussions about co-management and the changes of production relations they aspire towards.


Tuesday October 22 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.,
at Cinema Dynamo, 4th floor.