Talk

• 25​ 05​ 2016 •
Who Determines What Is Art? Renzo Martens and the Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantations Congolaises

19:00
Venue: ACADEMYSPACE, Herwarthstraße 3, 50672 Cologne
Free admission
In English

This event is part of the campaign week “Kultur öffnet Welten”—a joint initiative of federal, state and local authorities, artistic confederations and actors from civil society, kultur-oeffnet-welten.de

European artists who turn to the crisis-ridden and impoverished regions outside Europe cannot escape the role of colonial agents. To subvert this role means entering a field of controversy and paradox, as did Dutch artist Renzo Martens when he founded the so-called Institute for Human Activities (IHA). Since 2012, the IHA has been carrying out a “gentrification program” on a former Unilever plantation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by bringing sophisticated contemporary art debates there. With Renzo Martens’s encouragement, local artists eventually formed the Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantations Congolaises (CATPC) and began to make sculptures, whose chocolate casts are now shown and sold in European galleries. In this project, Western structures of production and distribution are confronted with traditional art, and an economic alternative to NGO-like, often neocolonial help is proposed. In their talks, RENZO MARTENS, EVA BAROIS DE CAEVEL and FRANҪOISE VERGÈS offer insights into the history behind the emergence of the CATPC and discuss its broader meaning in a still-Eurocentric art world. The discussion is moderated by EKATERINA DEGOT and Belgian writer and editor ELS ROELANDT at KASK&Conservatorium/School of Arts Ghent.

Renzo Martens is a Dutch artist who currently lives and works in Brussels, Amsterdam and Kinshasa. In his documentary films Episode I (2003) and Episode III: Enjoy Poverty (2008), Martens used his position as an artist to highlight the media and cultural exploitation of underprivileged people. In 2010, he founded the Institute for Human Activities (IHA), which aims to create gentrification effects in the Congolese rain forest through the establishment of an international art center. Since 2013, Martens has been a Yale World Fellow. He participated in the 19th Biennale of Sydney in 2014, the Moscow Biennale 2013 and the 6th and 7th Berlin Biennale in 2010 and 2012, among others.

Eva Barois De Caevel is an assistant curator at Raw Material Company, a center for art, knowledge and society in Dakar, and works as an independent curator. She has been working on academic research as well as on post-colonial questions and socially engaged practices in contemporary art. She collaborated with director Koyo Kouoh on several projects at WIELS, Brussels and at the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg in 2015. She is the co-founder of Cartel de Kunst, an international collective and solidarity network of emerging curators based in Paris.

Françoise Vergès is  a writer and social theorist and holder of the Chair „Global South(s)“ at the Collège d'études mondiales, Fondation Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, Paris. She was a project advisor for documenta 11 in 2002 and contributed to the 2012 Paris Triennale. She has published widely on the subjects of vernacular practices of memories, slavery and the economy of predation, French post-coloniality and post-colonial museography. She has also directed two movies about the great Caribbean authors Aimé Césaire and Maryse Condé and organized several exhibitions at the Louvre on the subjects of slavery.