Academic journal article Journal of Aesthetics and Culture

Buying Blood Diamonds and Altering Global Capitalism. Mads Brugger as Unruly Artivist in the Ambassador

Academic journal article Journal of Aesthetics and Culture

Buying Blood Diamonds and Altering Global Capitalism. Mads Brugger as Unruly Artivist in the Ambassador

Article excerpt


Buying blood diamonds and altering global capitalism. Mads Brügger as unruly artivist in The Ambassador

Camilla Møhring Reestorff*

Department of Aesthetics and Communication, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark


This article argues that it is necessary to distinguish between different modalities of globalisation to ensure that we do not simply equate globalisation with global capitalism. Following this, this article conducts a study of the way in which Mads Brügger's documentary film The Ambassador challenges global inequality in relation to finance and mobility. This critique of global inequality is staged through a peculiar "unruly artivist" provocation. Mads Brügger fictionalises his character and over-identifies with the corrupt diplomat seeking to buy and trade blood diamonds. The film is unruly because it rejects any explicit ethical claims and norms of participation, thus reproducing the self-same patterns of inequality that it seeks to document. This article studies the film as an unruly documentary that applies satire, cartoon aesthetics, and culture jamming as its artivist strategy. This strategy is one of provocation. The provocation enters the mediatised public sphere, in which it simultaneously is condemned and works as a critique of the global mobility and financial inequality that it portrays.


Camilla Møhring Reestorff is assistant professor at the Department of Aesthetics and Communication at the University of Aarhus and honorary research fellow at The University of Melbourne's School of Culture and Communication. She has done research on nationalism and the intertwining of art, activism, and politics in the Danish "culture war." Her publications include work on contemporary cultural politics and political art, for instance in Globalizing Art: Negotiating Place, Identity and Nation in Contemporary Nordic Art (Thomsen and Ørjasæter 2011), and fictionality (Jacobsen, Kierkegaard, Kraglund, Nielsen, Stage and Reestorff 2013).

Keywords: globalisation; multimodality; non-places; artivism; provocation; politics of nature; satiric documentary; overidentification; participation; culture jamming

Published: 28 November 2013

*Correspondence to: Camilla Møhring Reestorff, Department of Aesthetics and Communication, Aarhus University, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 2, 1485/536, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. Email:

©2013 C. M. Reestorff. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Citation: Journal of Aesthetics & Culture, Vol. 5, 2013

In 2011, the journalist and filmmaker Mads Brügger bought diplomatic credentials and travelled to the Central African Republic (CAR) as a diplomat for Liberia. Officially, he was there to start a factory that produces matches, but unofficially he investigated how diplomats can travel unhindered with vast reserves of so-called blood diamonds. Brügger's quest to become an ambassador and buy blood diamonds was simultaneously documented by Brügger in The Ambassador .1 The film shows that it is possible to buy diplomatic passports, which not only enable easy global travel but also--with the right credentials--include privileges such as diplomatic immunity. The corrupt system of diplomacy and diamond trading exploits the resources of some of the poorest and most heavily indebted countries in the world. In the film, this exploitation is conducted not only by corrupt diplomats and politicians and the former colonial master, France, but also by the filmmaker himself.

Mads Brügger buys his diplomatic passport and credentials from Willem Tijssen, a Dutch dealer. …

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