IT’S A COLD JANUARY AFTERNOON at SculptureCenter in Queens, New York, and a lineup of top-notch intellectuals are arrayed before a small audience. Their task is to make sense of an exhibition of work by the Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League, or CATPC), brought here by Dutch artist Renzo Martens: twelve chocolate sculptures, a handful of drawings, and an enigmatic forty-one-minute video. No one on the panel can really come to grips with the project. Anthropologist Michael Taussig avoids the issue by discussing preplantation agriculture in Colombia in the 1970s. Photo historian Ariella Azoulay connects the history of imperialist looting to the foundations of modern art. Art historian David Joselit tentatively contextualizes Martens’s project as “infrastructural construction” (rather than institutional critique) but doesn’t
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