The Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise, an acclaimed collective of plantation workers from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and their collaborator Renzo Martens will represent the Netherlands at the 2024 Venice Biennale, which is due to open in April of that year.
Founded in 2014 in Lusanga, CATPC, as the collective is known for short, is known internationally for creating sculptures crafted from the cacao obtained from plantations across the globe. The money used from the sales from these works has historically been used to support Congo, going toward agricultural initiatives and other ventures.
The collective has long worked with the Institute for Human Activities, the organization founded by Martens, who is based in Amsterdam and Kinshasa.
Although CATPC’s work has been widely praised when it has appeared at venues such as New York’s SculptureCenter, the Biennale of Sydney, and the Dak’Art Biennale in Senegal, the group’s collaboration with Martens has periodically come under scrutiny. A Guardian reporter once accused Martens, a white European, of attempting to “gentrify the jungle.” Martens has framed the collaboration as one intended to redress economic inequalities and the violence of Dutch colonialism.
Unconventionally, CATPC’s presentation for the Venice Biennale will extend beyond the Italian art festival. A related exhibition will also appear simultaneously at the White Cube, the Lusanga art space that CATPC operates. The pavilion’s announcement said that the two shows would be “directly mirrored and connected.”
Ced’art Tamasala, a member of CATPC, said in a statement, “The opportunity to now pair a white cube on a plantation with one at the summit of the art world allows for a direct look into these two worlds and into the inequalities between them. Meaningful and sincere reflections will be produced from these different, but related, realities coming together. Through this presentation, we will come to the final stage of our collective journey into truths that deserve to be shared.”
Hicham Khalidi, director of the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, will organize the collective’s Dutch Pavilion.
The 2024 pavilion will mark the Netherlands’ return to the Giardini, the space where many of the most heavily trafficked national presentations are regularly held. Last year, the Netherlands handed over its pavilion to Estonia and instead staged its presentation, by the artist melanie bonajo, in a deconsecrated 13th-century church far away from the biennial’s main festivities.