Sergio Rojas Chaves works on affective approaches to biology ranging from examining the role of houseplants in our lives to looking at birdwatching communities and aquarium decoration, in the process offering the opportunity to see species in a new light, as living beings both in kinship with and alien to ourselves. Through this work he offers alternative views on human nature.
For Despacio, the project space I founded in San José, Costa Rica, Chaves staged a performance, Plantas de Paseo (2017), in which he invited participants to take a plant from their home on a walk through the city. Throughout the event, participants discussed and reflected upon their relationship to their plant and to the flora they saw in public spaces.
The work was typical of his approach to artmaking as an ethnobiological practice; here he was interested in the way plant and animal species are seen, used and represented by contemporary culture. For another work he has led participants through guided meditation, asking them to immerse themselves in the personality of a houseplant they are familiar with. Blindfolded with ‘houseplant-masks’, we began a walk through the forest, imagining ourselves as houseplants that, for the first time, are experiencing the possibility of moving and living outdoors.
The study of dynamic relationships between people, biota and environments is the starting point for Chaves’s work, yet for me his is also a search for a specific frequency, a vibration among people that is so distant as to be unheard behind the high sound volume of today’s society. In doing so he offers something of a resistance through tropical intelligence. This plays out not only through his artistic practice but also through the work of Nos Vemos, an artist-run space he coordinates in San José that serves as a platform for contemporary art and provides opportunities for younger artists to show their work, something much needed in a city like this one.
Sergio Rojas Chaves lives and works in San José, Costa Rica. In 2018 his work was shown at Museum Tinguely, Basel, Die Diele, Zürich, and Kunstverein Langenhagen. In 2017 he participated in Alter Academia Residency in TEOR/ética and Karaoke Todos Los Días Residency in Despacio, both in San José. His work was on show at the X Central American Biennale in Limón, Costa Rica, and the 1st Performance Festival in Reunión, Honduras. Chaves is the director of independent art space Nos Vemos and cocurator of Reunión, San José.
Federico Herrero is a Costa Rica-based artist.
From the January and February 2019 issue of ArtReview, in association with K11 Art Foundation