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A conversation with Chus Martinez


season 3 episode 13
Nov 19 2021



Spanish curator, art historian, writer and currently the director of the Art Gender Nature Institute at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design in Basel, Chus Martinez talks about reimagining the exhibition public space, the transformative role of art in society and being a woman in her field of work.



About our guest

Chus Martinez is a Spanish curator, art historian, and writer. She is now the head of the Art Gender Nature Institute at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design, Basel where she also runs its exhibition space der Tank.



Links

FHNW Academy of Art and Design

Der Tank
Instagram




Taloi Havini, Answer to the Call, 2021
Exhibition view The Soul Expanding Ocean #1: Taloi Havini, Ocean Space, Venice. Commissioned by TBA21–Academy and co-produced with Schmidt Ocean Institute, co-founded by Wendy Schmidt. 
Photo: gerdastudio




Taloi Havini, Answer to the Call, 2021
Exhibition view The Soul Expanding Ocean #1: Taloi Havini, Ocean Space, Venice. Commissioned by TBA21–Academy and co-produced with Schmidt Ocean Institute, co-founded by Wendy Schmidt.
Photo: Enrico Fiorese.




“There is a problem with humanism. It placed the man at the center of the picture”



 
Isabel Lewis, O.C.E.A.N.I.C.A.
(Occasions Creating Ecologically Attuned Narratives in Collective Action), 2021
Exhibition-performance
“The Soul Expanding Ocean #2: Isabel Lewis”, Ocean Space, Venice
Commissioned and produced by TBA21–Academy
Photo: Kinonauts




Isabel Lewis, O.C.E.A.N.I.C.A.
(Occasions Creating Ecologically Attuned Narratives in Collective Action), 2021
Exhibition-performance
“The Soul Expanding Ocean #2: Isabel Lewis”, Ocean Space, Venice
Commissioned and produced by TBA21–Academy
Photo: Kinonauts




Isabel Lewis, O.C.E.A.N.I.C.A.
(Occasions Creating Ecologically Attuned Narratives in Collective Action), 2021
Exhibition-performance
“The Soul Expanding Ocean #2: Isabel Lewis”, Ocean Space, Venice
Commissioned and produced by TBA21–Academy
Photo: Kinonauts





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Closing Weekend




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It’s a pleasure to welcome Chus Martinez to the show and to listen to her enriching thoughts, opinions, and experiences as a woman in the very pit of the artworld. She talks about how she reimagines and innovates the exhibition space as a curator, art’s powerful impact in driving social change, and being a woman in the art world.

We also discuss the mindset of artists working collaboratively versus this false idea of “the genius”, the experience of being immersed in the art education world, and the gradual coming back of man into cohabitation with nature.


Conversation Highlights:


  • Reimagining how to organize exhibitions
  • The impact of art on society
  • The gradual reconnection of man with nature
  • Chus’s experience being in the world of art education
  • Being a woman, and also a mother in the art world


Here’s a more detailed breakdown:

Reimagining how to organize exhibitions


After sharing how she became a curator by accident through a series of serendipitous encounters and the organization of some exhibitions, Chus shares the questions she asks herself to bring forth innovative ideas in planning exhibitions. “I still feel that I don’t really operate or act as a curator by the book,” she says. “I still feel that I can introduce too many elements that were not or are not named in the discipline.”

After the pandemic, it’s important to regain the audience since it’s remodeled our habits of going out and our relation with public spaces. She challenges herself to think innovatively and investigate the many ways this public space can be the most effectively used. This, in turn, has the potential to drive positive social change.

“I think that the exhibition as a format and as a space is still an incredible freedom space,” she adds. “So it’s worth investigating: what else can we do? How can we bring teenagers in? How can we do things that I suppose are not to be done there? How can we still provide safety and alsom activity at the same time? [...] As a curator, I reflect a lot on those possibilities and scenarios.”


The impact of art on society


One of the big topics we address is art’s power in driving social change, in transforming lives and societies. Chus assures that “it’s not a belief, it’s a fact” that so many lives have been changed, transformed thanks to Art. How being moved by artworks, whether positively, negatively or indifferently, has a direct consequence in an individual’s behavior, stance and beliefs towards society as it has the power to constantly make them question things.

We discuss humanity’s slow reconnection with nature, and cohabitation with non-human entities, and this being a direct impact of many forms of art and exposure to art. We go deeper into the topic after quoting her words: “There is a problem with humanism. It placed the man at the center of the picture. True, it has a placeholder for all of us. And yet it is not.”

On a more personal level, she shares the particular effect that being surrounded by artists has on her, being immersed in art education with her role as director of the Art Institute at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design in Basel. This allows her to work on various interesting projects, including a program that’s about to launch in November that explores “the role of art education in the making of women artists and artists in general.”


The stigma around gender and motherhood in the art world


Underlining that she speaks on behalf of women in her field, she talks about the struggle in the way women are often perceived as opposed to their male counterparts. She mentions language tics often used to describe women as opposed to men, and we question the connotation of the word ‘genius’ that is so often used in the art world to describe an individual’s talent.

We also discuss the challenge that comes with the perceived identity of working mothers and the tainted views of the exterior eye, as she shares her experience having had a baby many years ago and working at the same time.

She also gives us her own tips and advice for women in the arts, placing importance on generosity, leveling arrogance, and having a collaborative mindset. She shares how important it is to meditate on prejudices and to open up to a plethora of people of all genders.



If all these topics speak to you and you need a power boost of inspiration, tune into this episode, or check the transcript you can find here ︎︎︎ [transcript]

                                                                         
                                           
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