Tate Modern Talk

Art and Politics Now

Launching IHA's Critical Curriculum, Institute for Human Activities, undisclosed location, DR Congo, video still, 2014

Art and Politics Now

Why are contemporary artists increasingly engaging with some of the most pressing issues facing our world today, from globalisation, migration and citizenship to conflict, sustainability, gentrification, terrorism and social activism? Join Anthony Downey, author of Art and Politics Now, and artist Renzo Martens for a conversation chaired by Elvira Dyangani Ose, addressing the implications of these developments and inviting us, in turn, to rethink what we mean by the terms ‘political’, 'engagement', and 'activism'.

Listen to the recording:


Anthony Downey is an academic, editor and writer. Recent and upcoming publications include Art and Politics Now (Thames & Hudson, 2014); Uncommon Grounds: New Media and Critical Practices in North Africa and the Middle East (I.B. Tauris, 2014); Slavs and Tatars: Mirrors for Princes (JRP Ringier/NYU Press, 2015); and Archival Dissonance: Contemporary Art and Contested Narratives in the Middle East (I.B. Tauris, 2015). He is the Director of Contemporary Art at Sotheby's Institute of Art, London, and Editor-in-Chief of Ibraaz, a publishing and research initiative on visual culture in the Middle East. He is currently researching Zones of Indistinction: Performative Ethics and Late Modernity (forthcoming, 2016).

Elvira Dyangani Ose is Lecturer in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London, and curator of the eighth edition of the Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, GIBCA 2015. She was Curator of International Art, supported by Guaranty Trust Bank Plc at Tate Modern (2011–14). Prior to Tate, she was curator at the Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno (2004–06) and at the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo (2006–08), where she organized several exhibitions including works by, among others, General Idea, Viennese Actionism, Alfredo Jaar, Lara Almárcegui, Ábalos & Herreros and Ricardo Basbaum. She was also curator of Arte Invisible (2009–10), guest curator of the triennial SUD-Salon Urbain de Douala (2010), and the Artistic Director of the third edition of the Rencontres Picha. Lubumbashi Biennial (2013).

Renzo Martens is an artist living in Brussels. His work Episode III: Enjoy Poverty was exhibited at the 6th Berlin Biennale, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, La Vireinna, Barcelona, Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven, and screened at Tate Modern, London and Centre Pompidou, Paris. Currently he works on the Institute for Human Activities and its five-year Gentrification Program in the Congo. The Institute held its opening seminar in the Congolese rainforest, as part of the 7th Berlin Biennial, with presentations at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Wiels, Brussels. He studied Political Science at the University of Nijmegen and art at the Royal Academy of Ghent and the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. Martens is the Artistic Director for the Institute of Human Activities (IHA) and was the World Fellow at Yale University, New Haven in 2013.

Following the discussion, there will be an opportunity to purchase a copy of Art and Politics Now and have it signed by the author in the Starr Foyer from 20.00–20.20.

This event has been developed in partnership with Thames & Hudson

Tate Modern

Starr Cinema

London SE1 9TG
Plan your visit

Date & Time

16 March 2015 at 18.30–20.00