In a joint presentation by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics and the Cooper Union School of Art’s Interdisciplinary Seminar, art historian T.J. Demos considers Dutch artist Renzo Martens’s video Enjoy Poverty from 2008. Drawing from his forthcoming book Return to the Postcolony: Spectres of Colonialism in Contemporary Art, Demos elaborates on the Dutch artist’s travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo where he created a performative intervention in the image-regime of media, photojournalist, humanitarian, and artistic representations of poverty that reveals the structural conditions of economic inequality under neoliberalism’s global financial arrangements. Demos contextualizes and assesses the video’s devastating attack on the dominant paradigm of mass-media’s approach to war and conflict—documentary empathy—and examines critically Martens’s alternative proposa
T.J. Demos is critic and Reader in the Art History Department at University College London. He writes widely on modern and contemporary art and politics, and is the author, most recently, of Return to the Postcolony: Spectres of Colonialism in Contemporary Art (Sternberg Press, 2013), and The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary during Global Crisis (Duke University Press, 2013). Demos also recently guest-edited a special issue of Third Text 120 (January 2013) on “Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology.” He is a member of the Nominators Council for the Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics.
This lecture is organized and presented by Cooper Union, in collaboration with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics.
Image: Renzo Martens, Enjoy Poverty, 2008, video still. Photograph courtesy the artist