Renzo Martens

    ‘THE MAN WHO WANTS TO GENTRIFY THE JUNGLE’ is realized in collaboration with Florence Parot (tutor at Dirty Art Department) and Arthur Röing Baer (initiator and co-curator of the Quicksand Series)

    Screening Epidode I (January 19, Auditorium 18:30)
    Episode 1 is the registration of Renzo Martens’ activities in Chechnya. He penetrates the war-zone —alone, illegal and carrying a Hi8 camera- and takes on the role of the single most important actor in war: that of the ubiquitous, yet forever undefined, television viewer for whose attention the battles are being fought. Amidst ruins and bombings, he does not ask refugees, UN employees and rebels how they feel. Those stories are well known, and serve no purpose for those who tell them. Instead, he asks them how they think he feels. The film forms a metaphor for an economy of images, roles and emotions. At the same time, there Martens stands, alone, with his camera, recording. The film is not about some external phenomenon, but about the terms and conditions of its own existence.

    Screening Episode III (January 21, Auditorium 12:30)
    Episode III, also known as ‘Enjoy Poverty’, is the 90 minute film registration of Renzo Martens’ activities in the Congo. In an epic journey, the film establishes that images of poverty are the Congo’s most lucrative export, generating more revenue than traditional exports like gold, diamonds, or cocoa. However, just as with these traditional exports, those that provide the raw material: the poor being filmed, hardly benefit from it at all.

    Lecture Renzo Martens (January 21, Auditorium 19:30)

    Renzo Martens’s conceptual documentary ‘Episode 3 – Enjoy Poverty’, which premiered in 2008, takes its viewer on an epic journey through the Congo. Shot according to a precise script with Martens as a protagonist, the film establishes that poverty itself is Congo’s most lucrative export product. But, as with more traditional African exports, it is not the poor—the suppliers of the raw material—who benefit from this new commodity. Since its premiere, ‘Episode 3 – Enjoy Poverty’ travelled the world and has been shown in a variety of art institutions worldwide. Despite the film’s wide reach and critical potential it did not however contribute to any actual material change in Congo. This inspired Martens to found the Institute for Human Activities (IHA) in Congo in 2012. The new institute observes a gap in criticality; socially-engaged contemporary art practices typically deal with labor conditions, migration and social injustice. This may well generate awareness, as well as possibilities for social equality, in for example Peru, the Parisian banlieues or Africa. However, more often than not, these notions remain confined to a symbolic level, only. On a material level these projects generate knowledge and beauty and wealth of the cities where these interventions are shown, discussed and sold: Venice, New York, Berlin, and yes, also Amsterdam. The IHA asserts that critical art about economic inequality should not stimulate further gentrification and economic benefit for a selected few in London, New York or Venice, but create wealth in the most impoverished places on the planet. The IHA wants to make sure critique on inequality closes the inequality gap, rather than wide it. This ‘reverse gentrification’ at IHA’s research centre on a former Unilever plantation in Congo does not chase away the working classes, but turns them key actors in global debates.

    Artist Renzo Martens studied political sciences and art at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam and the Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten in Ghent. Martens’s work has been exhibited a.o. in the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; De Hallen, Haarlem; the 6th and 7th Berlin Biennials, Tate Modern, London; the 19th Biennial of Sydney; The Box, LA; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Kunsthaus Graz, Graz; Kunsthalle Goteborg, Gothenburg; Wiels, Brussel and Stedelijk Museum Bureau, Amsterdam. Based on his gentrification program and the Institute for Human Activities, Martens was appointed Yale World Fellow in 2013. The IHA has exhibited its work in the Van Abbemuseum, Artes Mundi, the Walker Art Center and the 7th Berlin Biennial. Parallel to IHA’s exhibition in Galerie Fons Welters, the IHA will open exhibitions in KOW and Kunstwerke, both in Berlin.