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Victoria Ruiz: Photoworks Graduate winner

Meet Victoria Ruiz, selected from the Photoworks Graduate issue to receive support from Spectrum Photographic in recognition of her work.

The Tiroteo suits in the middle of a gunfight standing together as bullets enter their bodies by Victoria Ruiz
Plomo (Lead), The ‘Tiroteo’ suits in the middle of a gunfight standing together as bullets enter their bodies © Victoria Ruiz

Victoria Ruiz explores heritage, culture and the carnivalesque in her photographic work.

Her ongoing El Carnaval Que No Pasó series features in the Photoworks Graduate Issue.

We chat to her about the inspiration behind her work, universal messages and what comes next.

El Carnaval Que No Pasó

El Carnaval Que No Pasó (The Carnival That Didn’t Happen), references Venezuela’s recent political history.

Hugo Chávez’s 1998 election was based on a platform of change.

Chávez called for the creation of a so-called Fifth Republic, a new constitution, a new name for the country and an overhaul of the class system.

His supporters described his election as the Bolivarian Revolution.

Yet Venezuela’s political and economic situation has rapidly deteriorated, especially since Chávez’s death in 2013.

“The motivation behind El Carnaval Que No Pasó is Venezuela,” says Ruiz.

“It is based on the people of Venezuela and the dreams promised to us all, but in the end, did not happen.

“In this series, I am telling the story of one of Venezuela’s darkest times.

“I wanted to create a project in which this narrative is told and for my audience to reflect on the idea of empty promises told by the government.”

Ruiz describes the situation in Venezuela as ‘surreal’.

“I have always been motivated to tell the story of my people and to create work that serves as a social criticism yet, at the same time, leaves room for the audience to enter into a space of empathy and self-reflection,” she says.

Two 'Flower Skin' civilians side by side holding on to hope and each other
La Resistencia (The Resistance), Two ‘Flower Skin’ civilians side by side holding on to hope and each other © Victoria Ruiz

Using Carnival as a canvas

Ruiz says the carnivalesque influences every aspect of her work – from subject choice to colours.

“I have always had a close relationship with the carnivalesque as it is a massive part of my culture,” she says.

“It is ingrained in the way I approach my artistic practice.

“What is so interesting about the carnivalesque is how it surrounds our day-to-day and translates to the socio-political context of the world.

“In the carnivalesque, different elements, such as identity, performance, anonymity, freedom, community, etc, influence my work.

“This project specifically uses Carnival as a canvas to critique the ongoing turmoil using surreal elements to tell this narrative.”

Art as activism

Ruiz says her Venezuelan background means she wants her art to mean something.

She wants it to be a ‘tool for self-progression and community development’.

“Everything I do is political,” she says.

“It is tough to stay silent when you witness your country going downhill from the year you are born.

“Since I was little, I have had memories of family members going to the streets to protest for a better country.

“The idea of activism has been with me for as long as I can remember.

“So, as an artist, I want my art to have a say. It is almost like a rebellion after witnessing so much censorship.”

Ruiz believes UK audiences will be able to draw parallels between this dark chapter in Venezuela’s history and their own experiences.

“One of the main points that I am trying to convey in this series is that, unfortunately, we, the people, are promised many things by those who hold power, but they have their own agenda in mind,” she says.

“In the end, these promises turn into empty ones. This message is a universal one.

“It is sad to say that many of us around the world have experienced this with our own governments.”

The repression force has slingshots and the civilians have weapons in this image by Victoria Ruiz
Las Promesas (The Promises), The promises that the government will put down their weapons against their civilians. Here the repression force has slingshots and the civilians are the ones who have the weapons. It is a roles reversed situation with empty promises told by the government © Victoria Ruiz

Victoria Ruiz

Victoria Ruiz was born and brought up in Venezuela.

She brings a multidisciplinary approach to her photographic work, drawing on heritage, culture and a commitment to activism.

Ruiz was selected by the Photoworks jury to receive support from Spectrum in recognition of her work.

She is currently working on a continuation of El Carnaval Que No Pasó and her first book with long-time collaborator Helena Cebrian.

Read more about El Carnaval Que No Pasó via the Photoworks website here.

View more of Ruiz’s work via her website here.