Rosa Martinez in Words of Wisdom. A Curator’s Vade Mecum on Contemporary Art. 2001

Oscar Wilde said one should never give advice, especially good advice. And yet, here I am, attempting to indicate the best roads for an exhibition organiser to take. In my case, being a curator was not the result of an early vocation but a process of becoming, which I've had to build up step by step; a kind of destination I've had to discover slowly, guided at times by necessity and at others by chance. Today, setting up exhibitions is a privileged way of creating new political and aesthetic territories. There are no reliable maps nor fail-safe recipes for producing a good exhibition, but flexibility is vital for adapting to the most rugged terrain, as is a staunch defense of one's inner convictions and a passion for discovering new routes.

In my view, a curator should be:
. a polymorphous being, but not a perverse one
. an intrepid explorer with a radar capable of picking up almost
imperceptible signals
. a diplomat with honed negotiation skills
. a guerrilla intent on promoting social change
. an economist capable of clinching the best deal in an exchange
. a therapist who can help change someone's perception of problems
. a 'proposer' able to stimulate critical awareness
. a person willing to share both problems and success
. a bamboo rod, both strong and flexible, sensitive to currents without
being swept away by them.

These were my feelings and my goals when I organised exhibitions as the Fifth International Istanbul Biennial, On Life, Beauty, Translations and Other Difficulties (1997); Looking for a Place, the third Biennial at SITE Santa Fe (1999), and the EVA 2000 Biennial in Limerick (Ireland) entitled Friends and Neighbours.

In short, to give advice both ambiguous and precise -with the
openmindedness born of uncertainty, with the cautiousness of experience, and with the confidence inspired by New Feminism- I take the liberty of offering you these quotations. Read them and see if you are persuaded:

. “Choose a lofty role model; not to imitate but to surpass.”
-Baltasar Gracian
. “Be careful with what you wish, you might get it.”
-Oscar Wilde

. “Sometimes a woman has to do what a man has to think over.”

© 2001 Rosa Martínez and International Independent Curators International (ICI), New York.