Renzo Martens (1973) studied political science and art. He gained international recognition with the films Episode I, and Episode III: Enjoy Poverty, which was televised in more than 23 countries. In 2012, Martens established Human Activities and its reverse gentrification program in DR Congo. Together with the plantation workers of Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (CATPC), he uses artistic critique to redress economic inequality — not symbolically, but in material terms. Consequently, they opened an OMA-designed White Cube on a former Unilever plantation in 2017. The work of CATPC has been shown in a solo exhibition in ScultptureCenter, New York, which was hailed by the New York Times as ‘best art of the year’, Mori Art in Tokyo, KW Berlin and in the 21st Biennale of Sydney.
White Cube, Martens’ new feature-length documentary film, shows how Congolese plantation workers set a new precedent: they successfully co-opt the concept of the ‘white cube’ to buy back their land from international corporations. The film premiered in Lusanga, Democratic Republic of Congo, where it was screened onto the white walls of the museum, and at the IDFA film festival in Amsterdam, The Netherlands in November 2020. In March 2021, 15 collaborating art institutions across 4 continents hosted a global launch of the film. Participating institutions include National Museum (Kinshasa), Sharjah Art Foundation, The Africa Institute (Sharjah), KW Institute for Contemporary Art (Berlin), SCCA (Tamale), African Artists’ Foundation (Lagos), V-A-C (Moscow), Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven), Wiels (Brussels), ICA (London), Mori Art Museum Tokyo), Picha (Lubumbashi), MPavilion (Melbourne), Museum MACAN (Jakarta) and White Cube, Lusanga.