Göteborgs Konsthall

Renzo Martens

21 Jan - 13 Feb 2011

Episode III
21 January - 13 February, 2011

During three weeks, Göteborgs Konsthall in collaboration with Clandestino Institut, will show the film Episode III (2008) by the Dutch artist Renzo Martens who in the past years has been working on a series of films that try to reveal the world as a ‘spectators paradise’. The third in this series, Episode III, also known as Enjoy Poverty, is set in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The provocative work received great attention at the Berlin Biennial 2010 and has become intensely debated.

In the film, Renzo Martens travels to Congo-Kinshasa to investigate the exploitation of poverty and violence by international news agencies and aid organizations. There, amidst the ravages caused by war and relentless economic exploitation, Martens sets up an emancipation program that teaches the hapless population how to benefit from their primary ‘capital resource’: poverty.

With a neon sign stating Enjoy Poverty, Please, Martens suggest that one of Africa’s most lucrative natural resource and export business today is the representation of poverty. But who profits from images of starving and malnourished children and families? Who owns poverty? In a mixture of satire and investigative journalism, Martens comments on the ethics and economy that surrounds images of post-colonial suffering. In positioning himself at the center of the events, Martens questions the relationship between the voyeuristic gaze and concerned contemporary art. Nowhere is it obvious where he positions himself.

The work relates to a tradition of documentary filmmaking and engages the relationship between the subject and the viewer. Martens employ a number of artistic strategies in his work, such as satire, performance and appropriation. In his performance two different characters are significant. Partly, Martens reproduces the role of the western Consumer, who, just as the aid organizations, NGOs and journalists he critiques, profit from images of poverty for his own ends. And partly Martens is the Artist, who critically reflects on his own position and the system in which he is inscribed. Martens states;

I am both the observer and the perpetrator of the African's exploitation. I can never be the savior or the emancipator because I am defined by the structures and institutions that exploit in the first place. I can't even pretend that my presence would liberate - even though I lay bare the power relations of the image of poverty within the market economy. The one with the camera will always exploit because of the power relations inherent to taking, distributing and selling images. (Renzo Martens interviewed by Frances Guerin, ARTslant, New York, 2009)

Renzo Martens (b. 1973) works on a series of film works that, by enacting their own parameters, try to make visible what was hitherto obscured. Episode III was screened and exhibited at the 6th Berlin Biennial, Tate Modern, Centre Pompidou, Kunsthaus Graz and the Stedelijk Museum, as well as in numerous film festivals. Renzo Martens is currently working on Episode II.

The film is approximately 90 minutes long and are presented as a loop which means it starts approximatley every 90 minutes, starting from 11:00.

Göteborgs Konsthall and Clandestino Institut
Almost two years ago Göteborgs Konsthall initiated a collaboration with Clandestino Institut. The ambition was to highlight and explore some of the philosophical and political challenges articulated in the problematic relationship between victims and martyrs, within the field of contemporary art.

The collaboration was initiated in the aftermath of the international conference Victims and Martyrs – Political Interventions, hosted by the Clandestino Institute in 2009, with the acclaimed theorist and artist Trinh T Minh-ha as keynote speaker. The same year, Clandestino Institute initiated a lecture series on the subject. Some of the related reflections will be published in the upcoming issue of the magazine Glänta #3-4.10.

The culmination of the project, is however a two phase exhibition that will be presented at Göteborgs Konsthall this year. The first phase is exclusively focused on Renzo Martens challenging work Episode III, which will be followed by a large international group exhibition in December 2011.

The exhibition Renzo Martens: Episode III will be accompanied by a publication with an introduction by the Director of Göteborgs Konsthall, Mikael Nanfeldt, an interview between Mikael Nanfeld and Renzo Martens as well as a reflection on the exhibition by author Aleksander Motturi. In relation to the exhibition, Göteborgs Konsthall will host a series of discussions, talks and panel discussions.

Tags: Renzo Martens