A look is a tacit undressing of the being that is revealed, projecting that being’s frustrations, horrors and hunger. In fact, whoever looks allows themselves to be seen, while offering the depth of their pupils as a mirror. This dynamic is a ritual of expressive completion that requires a common horizon where the other (or others) participate(s) with their indifference or complicity.
Antonio Briceño (Caracas, 1966) has produced a series of videographic portraits of people who were victims of the excessive use of force by the security forces during the protests that took place in Venezuela between February and March 2014. Briceño asked them to look at the camera and remember in silence the experiences they went through during those days. Each of these faces is an unspoken testimony, a soliloquy of fluctuating looks that sways between introspection and remembrance.
These portraits were lit as though in an interrogation room, bathed in a head-on, inquisitive light. Anyone could have been there, rightly or wrongly, after being apprehended, struck or threatened. But, somehow, both the victims and their unspeakable captors shared the same cell, wrapped in the sordidness of a crimeless "cause" and the unpunished guilty. Also taking part in that symbolic circle of impunity were the spectators, although unharmed, who are now seen portrayed in the eyes of the other, in the variable drive of their unconfessed memories, in anger, in defencelessness, in impotence.
The portrait, one of the favourite genres of the author, has taken on a strong inner movement in this series that transcends the constancy of the frame and the stillness of its models-witnesses. Here, the subjects are defined by their psychic activity, rather than by the similarity to the model, because what matters is the somatic effect of the memory, the muscle tension, the sweating, the breathing and the tremor of the fragments of light on their eyes. In this case, the videographic medium allows a brief but effective temporary synchronisation with the spectators, incorporating them into a flow of contrasting emotions. It is, in short, a head to head, between the characters portrayed and those who scrutinise their faces from "outside".
Omertà (that conspiracy of complicity concerned with ignoring what is going on) makes the victims invisible, even when the origin of their affliction is "public and notorious". So what can be done? How to show what power and its allies refuse to see? Instead of recording the struggle of the barricades, Briceño opts for mute intimacy and contact without affectation. It shows the suspected rioters, without adding any anecdotal detail. Beyond the street epic, away from the explosions and gas; in the contrasting half-light of the studio, emotions come to the surface in front of the camera. You only have to look over the motionless faces to see what they are looking at and confront the somatic, mental consequences of intolerance. After all, all we are "eyewitnesses" of a reality that "happened unexpectedly".