Renzo Martens’ work “Enjoy Poverty. Episode III” (2008), shown in 2010 at Berlin Biennial deals with notions of poverty and power. In some segments of the film, we see Martens engaged with local people - he tries to make the mechanisms of their exploitation clear to them. He teaches them to enjoy their poverty: the words, “Enjoy Poverty,” are spelled out in big neon lights mounted on a raft with which he travels along the Congo River. His video explores the tension between the depravity of the neon signs and its obvious reference to the art industry and their message, displaced to a foreign context. Even more interesting is the relative pointlessness of the action: the artist discredits his own effort by the nature of the act. If he really wants to bring forward the cause, what is the purpose of launching a campaign which will only be perceived by a selected arty audience?
April 26 - 30, 2011, Berlin
Inbetween different economies
Here we freely interpret “economy” as a concept of a self-standing realm of relations and activities, that could be defined through the terms of demand, market, supply and exchange.
If we arbitrarily acknowledge, that art world functions as an economy by itself, within what other “economies” one finds his/her artistic venture operating?
Where and how do these economies intersect? What tensions are operating at these intersections?
The act of exchange.
How are certain images or gestures transferred and translated from one sphere to another?
How does the meaning/affect change when it is transfered from one economy to the other?
How can alienation/estrangement function successfully as an artistic strategy?
Role and position of the artist/cultural producer
In Renzo Martens' work "Episode 3", one sees by the end of the movie that the only "contribution" he can offer for the local community in Congo is the 'Western-art' industry solution. Is this a cynical statement on the redundancy of the help gesture, coming from Martens' position? However, is a pro-active role possible at all?
How artistic gestures can be affective? In what realm they DO work?
What other roles are available? Can the role of the artist be positioned as one of an “ignorant schoolmaster”?
Suggested reading list:
Ranciere, Jacques. The Ignorant Schoolmaster, Stanford University Press, 1991.
Roberts, John. Collaboration as a Problem of Art’s Cultural Form // Third Text, 18(6), pp. 557-564. November, 2004.
Rogoff, Irit. Smuggling, An Embodied Criticality.
Zizek, Slavoj. Violence, Picador, 2008.