For the Dutch National participation in the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, the Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (CATPC) collective – in collaboration with artist Renzo Martens and curator Hicham Khalidi – will present new artworks as part of their ongoing commitment for the plantation of Lusanga to be freed, regenerated and transformed back into sacred forests, as well as their commitment to a greater project of spiritual, ethical and economic reckoning. The exhibition will be on display from 20 April 2024 until 24 November 2024 at the Rietveld Pavilion in Venice and simultaneously in the White Cube in Lusanga (DRC).
By twinning the White Cube – the previously established museum by Martens and CATPC – in Lusanga with the Rietveld Pavilion in Venice a level playing field has been created by and for CATPC: this is what they see as their next step.
For both the Venice and Lusanga exhibitions CATPC will create new artworks from the earth of the last remaining patches of forest surrounding the plantation which will subsequently be cast in the raw materials extracted from the plantation. Ced’art Tamasala, on behalf of CATPC:
“Each sculpture carries the seed that will bring back the sacred forest. Ultimately functioning as conduits, these sculptures will allow for a shared equitable future for all humans, making it possible for us to reclaim our stolen lands, to reforest them and to welcome the post-plantation and sacred forest.”
Diviner’s Figure representing Belgian Colonial Officer, Maximilien Balot, 1931
In anticipation of the simultaneous exhibition in Venice and Lusanga, CATPC are petitioning for the temporary return of Balot, a sculpture held sacred to their community originally made to protect them against the plantation regime. CATPC believes in restoring balance and correcting past injustices once the sculpture has been returned. The sculpture is held in the collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA). The artistic team and the VMFA are currently in contact to make the loan happen.
According to CATPC it must be noted that many western museums have been constructed and financed with profits extracted from plantations. They believe that now is the time for museums and art institutes throughout the western world to support reconciliation and actively engage with indigenous communities as they reclaim their land and restore and reconnect to their sacred forests. If the ancestral sculpture named Balot is returned to the plantation – even temporarily – their movement will be greatly strengthened.
The Judgement of the White Cube
In CATPC’s latest, as yet unreleased performance film The Judgement of the White Cube, the White Cube – all white cubes- is taken hostage and judged. As it stands trial before the community, the white cube is sentenced to ask for forgiveness and to bring back the ancestral sculpture of Balot.
“We aim for a scenario in which the sweat and fruits of plantation labour are transformed from impure stains into tools for repair. The process of exhibiting and expressing our ideas in these fruits that we have produced, enables us –CATPC– to buy back confiscated land, to regenerate the sacred forest and to allow for a peaceful coexistence between humans and nature.”
Martens and Khalidi proposed to involve CATPC in the Dutch entry for the Biennale Arte 2024. They will use the Dutch entry for a presentation by CATPC and elaborate in the catalogue on the story behind this choice. The Dutch entry is commissioned by the Mondriaan Fund.