Chus Martínez

*1972 in Ponteceso (La Coruña), Spain, lives and works in New York.

Chus Martínez has a background in philosophy and art history. Since 2013 she is chief curator at the El Museo del Barrio in New York. She was dOCUMENTA (13) Head of Department and Member of Core Agent Group. Previously she was Chief Curator at MACBA, Barcelona (2008-2010), Director of the Frankfurter Kunstverein (2005–2008) and Artistic Director of Sala Rekalde, Bilbao (2002–2005). For the 50th Biennale di Venezia (2005), Martínez curated the National Pavilion of Cyprus, and in 2010 served as a Curatorial Advisor for the 29th Bienal de São Paulo. She lectures regularly and has written numerous catalogue texts and critical essays.

The Rainforest Principle

by Chus Martínez

In a recent conversation, Raphael Montañez Ortiz, the artist and founder of »El Museo del Barrio«, said that, at the time the Museo was founded, he thought all of its exhibitions should start with a rainforest. In this respect, he did, in fact, collaborate with the »American Museum of Natural History« and produced a rainforest room with their help. Unfortunately, no images of it have survived.

There are many ways of interpreting his vision of the rainforest as the preface to every exhibition. To put it simply, I think his rainforest introduces what is a very novel element into the discussion around the politics of the white cube. The debate has been a notably hard one, taking architectural perspectives, as related to Modernity, or flowing freely and responding to active discursivity and project-oriented energy, as in the late nineties and this century’s first decade. Amid all this, the white cube discussion has lacked »a rainforest«, a principle which,  in its complete otherness, defies the container, since the life-force represented by a rainforest cannot be contained. I still do not know exactly what to do about this incredibly beautiful image of a rainforest installed at the core of an art institution. It embodies all the difference in the world, different from human agency and ideology and yet also encapsulates the source of all that. It differs from the conventions of neutrality, and, by its scale and its very nature, escapes any formal canons. As it erupts, a form of intelligence without consciousness, into the white cube. »The rainforest« as Raphael Montañez Ortiz has put it »is an element that really helps us to think about class and labour and autonomy and dependency, just introducing a radically different viewpoint, the viewpoint of the rhythm of moisture«.