Critique in Practice
Renzo Martens’ Episode III: Enjoy Poverty
Edited by Anthony Downey
Published by Sternberg, 2019
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 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.
Renzo Martens speaks to Pierre d’Alancaisez about compassionate spectatorship, gentrifying the plantation, and about the limits of critique.