Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League or CATPC) at SculptureCenter, New York
SculptureCenter is pleased to announce the first exhibition of the Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League or CATPC) in the United States.
Creating sculptures with cacao as a primary material, the artists that comprise the CATPC are plantation workers who harvest primary material for international export. In the Congo, as elsewhere, plantation workers are grossly underpaid for their contribution to global industry, whether to the $100 billion chocolate industry or to the production of palm oil, broadly used in common household products. The Congolese plantation laborers cannot actually afford to live off of the wages they receive for their work and survive without basic amenities such as clean water and electricity. By using the same primary material—the cacao beans they gather for pennies—to instead make artworks, they are able to earn a better living.
Many of the sculptures created by CATPC members are future, present, and ancestral self- representations, and take up symbolic figures such as the art collector. First molded from clay, then 3D printed and cast in chocolate, the sculptures are made in collaborative settings and the materials used refer back to and overwrite the exploitative economics of global trade. The CATPC reinvests profits in new, self-owned, and regulated agricultural production—provoking questions about the inherent value of art and its market, and challenging art’s potential as a tool for broader social change.
Unprecedented wealth (financial and cultural) has been extracted directly from plantations worldwide and redeployed in the production and acquisition of art in major global cities through private investments and corporate sponsorships, resulting in gentrification and the reaffirmation of class disparities. One striking example may be the Unilever Series at Tate Modern, funded by a corporation that has a large stake in the Congo. How can we assess the conditions and motivations around the consumption of critically engaged art, when funded by plantation economies? What is the value of art that is not only about a site of conflict as a subject, but actually originates from that place? Can we extract wealth from the art system and repatriate it to the plantations where it originates? Can art turn the plantations into inclusive and ecological test sites?
In collaboration with their sister organization the Institute for Human Activities (IHA), CATPC is currently building a research center on a former Unilever plantation in a remote rainforest within the Democratic Republic of Congo, which aims to put the quintessential white cube to service as a vector for social and environmental change.
This exhibition will include existing and new sculptures and drawings produced by members of the CATPC, as well as materials about the larger activities and context of the IHA in the Congo. A series of public programs on topics raised by the exhibition will be announced at a later date.
The Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (CATPC) is an expanding art collective co-founded in 2014 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Plantation workers Djonga Bismar, Mathieu Kilapi Kasiama, Cedrick Tamasala, Mbuku Kimpala, Mananga Kibuila, Jérémie Mabiala, Emery Mohamba, and Thomas Leba, ecologist Rene Ngongo, and the Kinshasa-based artists Michel Ekeba, Eléonore Hellio, and Mega Mingiedi are its leading personalities.
The Institute for Human Activities has been working in Congo since 2012, where it attempts to diversify the local economy through critical artistic engagement. Dutch visual artist Renzo Martens is its founder.
at SculptureCenter, New York
until 27 March 2017