Renzo Martens disturbed viewers with videos such as Enjoy Poverty in which he centered himself as a white man and propagated the self-gentrification of Congolese plantation. Meanwhile, however, his role as a performer as well as the relationship to the protagonists of his work has fundamentally changed: A Western artist that purposefully positioned himself as a beneficiary of murderous and exploitative policies now works on restituting the means of production to the very plantations that have funded European and American white cubes.
Renzo Martens (1973) studied political science and art. After having made the films Episode I, and Episode III: Enjoy Poverty, Martens established Human Activities and its “reverse gentrification program” on a plantation in the DR Congo. Together with the plantation workers of Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (CATPC), he employs artistic critique to build a new world — not symbolically, but in material terms. Together, they opened a White Cube that is meant to repatriate capital and visibility to communities of plantation workers. White Cube, Martens’ latest film, shows how Congolese plantation workers set a new precedent: they successfully co-opt the concept of the ‘white cube’ to liberate their land and turn it into forests.