Tear Gas Canisters Shot at Venezuelan Protesters Will Become Art

Venezuelan protesters wear masks to protect themselves from tear gas released into the crowd by members of the National Guard troops. Photo: via Twitter user SeAlzoVenezuela.

Venezuelan protesters wear masks to protect themselves from tear gas released into the crowd by members of the National Guard troops.
Photo: Via Twitter user SeAlzoVenezuela.

The ongoing civil unrest in Venezuela has taken on an artistic spin thanks to a competition that encourages those who wish to speak out against the government to transform empty tear gas canisters used to subdue protesters into works of art, reports Reuters.

Tear gas canisters have been fired by the thousand, and at least 42 people have died with an additional 900 injured during the near-daily, often violently-dispersed protests against president Nicolas Maduro's socialist government over the last three months.

The capital city Caracas is divided into eight semi-autonomous districts, and the art contest is being sponsored by the government in the Chacao district, which opposes Maduro, and has played a prominent role in the protests. Interested parties are being asked to submit creations by the month's end.

Venezuelan demonstrators walk through a cloud of tear gas released by the police. Photo: Alejandro Cegarra, via NPR's Idea Stream.

Venezuelan demonstrators walk through a cloud of tear gas released by the police. Photo: Alejandro Cegarra, via NPR's Idea Stream.

Each piece will be based on the empty canisters that litter the city's streets after protesters are dispersed. Diego Scharifker, who is organizing the contest, has collected some 200 for the project.

According to the poster announcing the competition, "this initiative seeks to convert instruments of repression into a tool of peaceful protest," aimed at the "disproportionate and inhumane acts of repression that have happened in our streets at the hands of the state security forces."

"The project's idea is one of transformation," Ricardo Benaim, a 64-year-old Venezuelan artist, told Reuters. He plans to create a sculpture of an angel from the canisters, saying "these are things created to make you cry… Angels are the guardians of hope."

artnet News previously reported on plans by Venezuela's Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas to bring its art directly to the people at schools throughout the country despite the growing unrest across the nation.

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Tear gas, and plastic pellet gunshot used by Venezuela's National Police against a protest in Altamira, Caracas.
Photo: Andrés E. Azpúrua, via Wikimedia Commons.