Fearscapes by Eduardo Kairuz


AN ONGOING PORTRAIT OF URBAN HOSTILITY

Back in June of 2003, I drove the Australian partner of a long-time friend around Caracas, Venezuela — the capital of my home country. He was visiting from Sydney; and because of his circumspect and unbroken silence, I assumed that he was tired and jet lagged after the multiple stopovers and long-haul flight. As I drove him on the autopista — the highway that splits Caracas in two, and provides some of the best vantage points to see the city’s broken images — I sensed that he was taking in the sights. I asked him about his impressions, expecting the default response I was usually given by typical startled tourists, who used to talk about the city’s intensity, chaos, speed, and informality. But ‘Danny’ surprised me, answering my complacent question with a sharper, emotional, and critical question of his own:

 

Why does it seem as if people live like animals, in cages?

At first, I felt insulted. But then it occurred to me that I had never seen Caracas through Danny’s eyes. I realised that he wasn’t used to living in this simultaneously thrilling and menacing place, and that to the outsider’s eye, Caracas could in fact project an image of violence, imprisonment, and segregation. Danny’s question led me to realise that, while his perception was immediate and fresh, I had become desensitised to the visual, formal, and spatial hostility projected by the place where I lived. It was a turning point, which prompt me to try to see my city through an outsider’s eyes, and to start documenting this renewed and unacknowledged vision of Caracas with my — now primitive — 6-megapixel digital camera. This visual essay represents that process and vision, and it includes a brief selection of photographs that I took in Caracas over the years — and which are a sample of what my friend’s partner saw. The images are part of an ongoing research project titled Fearscapes, where I critically document and analyse the influence and effect of crime and state violence on architecture and the cityscape.

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