The Institute for Human Activities (IHA) is a research project, initiated by a Dutch artist Renzo Martens and developed at the KASK – School of Arts in Ghent. IHA’s goal is to prove that artistic critique on economic inequality can bypass it not symbolically, but in material terms. Since 2014 the IHA collaborates with the Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (CATPC). Together they have set up the Lusanga International Research Center for Art and Economic Inequality (LIRCAEI).
LIRCAEI is located on a former Unilever plantation, the ground zero of global economic inequality. At this very place, the IHA wants to fully deal with the economic and industrial structures that sustain global economic segregation. LIRACEI aims to place laborers trapped at the bottom rung of global value chains at the centre of debates around art and inequality, by developing a platform to make their voice heard and thus gain agency both in and outside of the art world. The research center is dedicated to resolving the division between critical debates and their economic impact, and redress the current underlying inequalities.
Plantation workers who cannot earn a living from production labor will live off of their artistic engagement with plantation labor. LIRCAEI, to be understood as a close collaboration with between the IHA and the CATPC, creates a local free zone for critical thought and artistic production that in its turn will have a positive impact on the livelihoods of local inhabitants.