Episode III – 'Enjoy Poverty' is the second in a series of three films by Martens. Martens made the first part in Chechnya, where he went to seek diversion among the ruins and victims of the war after a disappointing love affair.
For Episode III Martens travelled with his video camera to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where a humanitarian disaster has been taking place for many years now. Among other things, his film shows how the development organisations and the Western photographers there create a biased media report of that situation. Martens confronts the public with the fact that the Africans themselves do not profit from the images that the foreign photographers take of them. On the contrary: like gold and luxury goods, the images of poverty, the most lucrative export product, are also out of their reach; because they are exclusively exploited by the Western ‘poverty industry’. As an answer to this injustice, Martens starts a development project for Congolese photographers – a project that is doomed to failure.
The way in which Martens makes use of certain conventions from the documentary genre, transgressing them by his constant presence as a cameraman, reporter and activist simultaneously, is crucial to Episode III. In this sense, his work can be understood as a 'performance-documentary'. The discussion between Renzo Martens and Mark Nash preceding the reception at SMBA on Saturday, November 22, will deal with that.
For more information on the exhibition, the filmviewing and the conversation, go to the SMBA website.