Una Luz: Photography Under Confinement in Venezuela

September 20 – December 7, 2024

Fall 2024 Artist-in-Residence: Violette Bule

Curated by Violette Bule, Maysa Martins and Michel Otayek

Between 2010 and 2012, artist Violette Bule held a series of photography workshops in five prisons in her home country of Venezuela. Over three hundred incarcerated women and men participated in these free and voluntary weeklong workshops. Through a process that required the observation and negotiation of power imbalances, the cultivation of trust, and a mutual sense of agency, Bule guided the workshop participants through an exploration of the history of photography and exercises of formal experimentation and self-expression. This experience generated an extensive photographic archive, which Bule safeguarded after emigrating from Venezuela and became the basis of the 2023 photobook de la LLECA al COHUE, created in collaboration with the photography historian Michel Otayek. Una Luz: Photography Under Confinement in Venezuela revisits this archive, presenting photographic images alongside audio and written records from Bule’s ongoing collaboration with participants who have since been released from prison. This collective project, combined with Bule’s poetic texts and documentation, invites the viewer to consider life under incarceration through multiple lenses.

Una Luz resists the urge to grasp, reduce, or reveal a supposed reality of the Venezuelan prisons. Instead, the exhibition invites the viewer to move between what the images make visible and what remains concealed, between possibilities of encounter and unbridgeable distances, between the photographers’ desire to make themselves known on their terms and the structural processes that render them invisible. By refusing to reenact narratives of violence or to serve as any sort of sociopolitical denouncement or pedagogical tool, Una Luz traverses the universes of those living under incarceration in unpredictable ways. Across the exhibition, the opacity of prison jargon points to language’s role in determining belonging, trust, and even survival in carceral spaces. Seeking to challenge photography’s history of objectification, essentialization, and romanticization of those who become its subjects, Una Luz proposes a heterogeneous perspective of the inmates’ inalienable humanity. In an era characterized by mass incarceration, with penal populism triumphing amid neoliberal restructurings in Latin America and around the world, Una Luz points toward lines of flight from polarized debates and political instrumentalization that dehumanize those tangled within carceral systems.

Presenting support for Una Luz: Photography Under Confinement in Venezuela is provided by The Kaleta A. Doolin Foundation.

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About the artist

Artist and photographer Violette Bule examines power dynamics shaping everyday life, underscoring the entanglement of globalization and structural discrimination in migration patterns, identity politics, and populism. Her practice builds on social and economic vulnerability as a tool for creativity and political empowerment and engages with topics such as memory, violence, digital technologies, and social justice. Bule’s work has been included in numerous group exhibitions around the globe, including the biennial exhibition La Poli/Gráfica de Puerto Rico y El Caribe: Bajo Presión (San Juan, Puerto Rico, 2024), Day Jobs at the Blanton Museum of Art and Cantor Arts Center (Austin and Stanford, U.S., 2023–24), and the Artbo Fair 2022 exhibition Ante América/Referentes (Bogotà, Columbia) among many others. In 2021, Bule’s public art project, Rethinking Your Neighborhood, was presented in Houston as part of a multi-institutional collaboration between Art League Houston, the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, and the Houston Arts Alliance. In 2020, Bule was featured in the solo exhibition Echo Chamber: Violette Bule at The Transart Foundation for Art and Anthropology (Houston, U.S., 2020). Among her many awards, Bule received the 2023 Horton/Artadia Award and was selected for the Soma Summer residency program awarded by the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros. Her most recent project, de la LLECA al COHUE: Photography in Venezuelan Penitentiaries, was recently published by Roga Ediciones in collaboration with art historian Michel Otayek. Bule studied at the Escuela Activa de Fotografía in Mexico City and earned an MFA in Studio Art at the University of Houston.

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