Renzo Martens: Critique in Practice


26-08-2022 • 1 hr 19 mins

In 2008, the artist Renzo Martens released his controversial film Episode 3: Enjoy Poverty filmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The film portrayed the artist as a colonial explorer travelling around the Congo’s plantations with the naiveté of the cartoon character Tintin. Martens encounters poverty, hunger, and abuse, all the while narrating the way in which these experiences enrich him as a western observer.

In a manner now familiar in mainstream critical culture, the film was labelled as 'problematic'. Martens’ work and method were critiqued widely by an array of commentators. Some have changed their mind in light of Martens’ further work. Others - and I know this from speaking with an editor of a prominent art magazine - won’t come anywhere near it even fourteen years on "for fear of inadvertently promoting Martens' practice".

Critique in Practice, a volume edited by Anthony Downey brings together a range of responses to Enjoy Poverty, some dating from 2008, others more recent. It contains essays by the likes of Dan Fox, Ana Teixeira Pinto, Artur Zmijewski, TJ Demos, JJ Charlesworth, Ariella Aisha Azoulay, JA Koster, and Gregory Sholette. The book explores the limits of artistic practice as critique, challenging both Martens and the writers.

Because it would be impossible to speak to them and because I already interviewed Anthony Downy not long ago, I invited Renzo Martens, the subject of the book and its critiques to join me.

Critique in Practice
Renzo Martens’ Episode III: Enjoy Poverty

Edited by Anthony Downey

Published by Sternberg, 2019
ISBN 9783956795053