Artes Mundi 6: Renzo Martens and the Institute for Human Activities
Lightbox and Theatre Foyer
Martens lives and works in Brussels and Kinshasa and is known for his disturbing documentaries in which he travels to war-torn countries and places himself narcissistically at the centre of the action, demonstrating how Western spectators consume distant trauma.
As part of Artes Mundi 6 at Chapter, Martens presents Episode 3 (Enjoy Poverty), in which he visits the ruined Congo, interviewing photographers, plantation owners and locals; acting the role of western journalist, colonist, missionary and aid worker. His film focuses on one observation: poverty is Africa's biggest export, and as with other natural resources, it is exploited by the Western world through the media. He lectures locals about poverty as commodity and encourages them to sell their own photographs of starvation and death rather than let Western journalists profit from their humanitarian disaster.
Renzo Martens and the Institute for Human Activities will also exhibit a series of sculptures at the National Museum Cardiff. In 2012 Martens set up the Institute for Human Activities (IHA) to work on ‘A Gentrification Programme' on a settlement near a former Unilever plantation at Boteka in the DRC. Under this colonial oppression the rich tradition of indigenous art was derided as tribal and heretical, yet the best pieces were exported to Europe for the delight and inspiration of avant garde artists such as Matisse.
At the National Museum Cardiff, the Institute for Human Activities presents a new series of selfportraits made by Congolese plantation workers. These plantation workers produce raw material for Unilever products and a Belgian/Swiss chocolate producer and have been doing so for over one hundred years.
Carlos Bunga, Omer Fast, Theaster Gates , Sanja Iveković, Ragnar Kjarta nsson, Sharon Lockhart, Renata Lucas, Renzo Martens and the Institute of Human Activity, Karen Mirza and Brad Butler.
We’re delighted to once again partner with Artes Mundi to present a core exhibition of works by some of this year’s Artes Mundi 6 shortlisted artists. The shortlist features a diverse selection of international artists spanning different generations and cultures but sharing important global themes. These include investigations into the politics of institutional and urban space and social control in the works of Renata Lucas, Carlos Bunga and Theaster Gates. Sanja Iveković, Omer Fast and Renzo Martens continue this thread but more specifically address media representation and manipulation.
Many of the artists on the shortlist work in collaboration with individuals and communities. For example, Sharon Lockhart’s poetic films and photographs involve working closely with her subjects over a long period of time, whilst the work of Karen Mirza and Brad Butler questions what we mean by collaboration and participation in their practice which includes film, performance, curating and publishing. Ragnar Kjartansson’s work also involves collaboration, often with musicians through performance and installations through which he explores themes of friendship, human emotions, love and beauty. All these artists use a wide range of media, actions and strategies to comment on what it means to be human in contemporary society.
The artists were chosen from more than 800 nominations by two invited selectors: Adam Budak, an independent curator currently based in Washington and Sabine Schaschl, Director and Curator of Museum Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich. They particularly looked for artists whose work explores and comments on the human condition and lived experience.
The exhibition opens to the public on October 24th 2014 and the remaining shortlisted artists will present work at National Museum Cardiff and Ffotogallery, Penarth. For more information visit www.artesmundi.org