Bay Area Now 8 Interviews

Sofía Córdova

Q: Have you been to many of these biennials/triennials? When you went before, did you imagine what you'd do if one day given the opportunity to participate?

A: I’ve visited the usual ones like the Whitney Biennial, Greater New York, and some past iterations of YBCA’s BAN but I dunno, to be honest, I never thought of either whether I’d be in one or what work I’d produce if so since even though there are content and context variation, the format of these is generally same every time:  ‘here’s a bunch of stuff representative of this place, right now’. That makes these shows, by definition, so conceptually and materially mixed and in a sense, random, that I don’t think my brain ever went as far as considering a work that might best suit this model. I see these shows mainly as working as a signal boost for something you were already doing (or about to do) that you feel extra jazzed and urgent about as was my case. All that said, in the midst of this epochal chaos we’re in, the very specific conceptual/curatorial container of ‘what does living and making mean in the Bay Area in 2018?’- within this techno-dystopia, as it relates to the lives we live online, as artists are forced to negotiate for sustainable living as they face too that they’re the first salvo in displacement wars -  feels promising. I’m excited to see the work I’m doing be framed by these contexts as well as what relationship it might (or might not) have to the adjacent works, not because we’re working across similar ideas or whatever but because there’s a sort of fervor to living in this place, right now, that feels super meaningful to the contemporary digital moment within and perhaps more importantly, without the art world. (Not that I think art can fix or change things as it currently exists under capitalism but that’s another topic :P )

Q: You've been traveling quite a bit lately. Setting aside where you are from for a second, why do you continue to make the Bay Area home? Out of habit?

A: I know it’s not a sustainable place and loads of folks here fortify the redoubt that they’re forced to either be here out of precarity and out of stasis or run for the hills (NY/ LA lol) but for me staying isn’t at all out of habit. My staying has been in part due to chance, sure, but in many concrete and intentional ways I feel like I’m meant to be here. When I moved here from NY 10 years ago I really thought it was a stopover on my way to LA or Europe or some other place but first, after school, the art communities I grew here and then (and more importantly) in the last 5 years, the qtpoc music community I’ve fallen into through XUXA SANTAMARIA have really taken care of me and inspired me and made me feel a certain responsibility to the myriad weirdos who still manage to operate and do so to an impressive degree here. I’ve also been fortunate that through living at the 45th street Artist’s Co-op on the edge of Oakland, in Emeryville, I have found some semblance of stability, which i know is ironic given things here. Finding affordable live/work has opened life in such a way that that despite this place being still heavily beholden to a sort of bizarro modernist aesthetic and general vibe (though not completely of course, hi Et al. :) ), the Bay has actually become a really solid place for thinking and making and also a lovely home base to use while traveling extensively to produce (and in many ways spread) the work in ways I can’t quite here. I am also working overtime at present to find a way to be able to live back home in Puerto Rico half the year and my unique living situation makes even considering that possible. I’ve always wanted to have a foot in PR  and one in the US and The Bay is 100% where the US arm of this operation will be based.  I’m pretty lucky to be here, Oakland is a beautiful, historically black, and has a long history of standing strong and weird and true, a tradition of which is still alive today. You just gotta know where to look.

Q: Your practice covers a lot of ground media-wise with video, sculpture, flat work, performance etc. - are you inclined in this exhibition to touch on all of it, or to focus on one or another aspect?

A: Ha, well, everytime I try to be less of a pluralist, I still manage to loop back to a wild and baroque place where more is always more, so the former all the way for this because I kind of can’t help myself. That said, the work I’ll be presenting, Mira esto que lo vas a extrañar (Look At This Because You’re Going to Forget It) will be, for me, a kind of minimal installation and it is, unlike a lot of the work I’ve been producing over the last six years, pretty narrow in its focus even as it remains sort of maximalist in its references.

Q: I feel the same strange urge to stay but to also find a way to spend chunks of time elsewhere. How was/is it doing a bunch of residencies re: getting to know other places?

A: I think it’s super key to my life and practice to always be moving, at least for now. Not being from the USA and traveling back and forth from Puerto Rico to wherever I’ve lived here has made it so that from a young age, ‘home’ has been a transient and plural term. The other thing is that being away for residencies, while at times decentering (residencies are great but also have moments of intense dislocation and all that can mean emotionally, mentally, and physically), are a good way to stay sharp and alert which is an important part of making for me. I thrive on intensity.

Q: With a more than a toe in the music and art scene, are you tempted to dive further into one at the expense of the other, and/or to more specifically make moves that suit the part of each closest to commercial viability?

A: I don’t think of my work in music or with sound as existing in a different sphere than the other ‘art’ work. I know the works are variously presented in different venues and have different audiences (though also much crossover) but the place of making for both is the same. I don’t think I can go one way vs another. The value hierarchy applied to ‘music vs. real art’ is one that is market driven and totally uninteresting to me. To me they’re both part of the performance arm of my work.  Me choosing one would be like me only doing video or performance or sculpture exclusively, it just doesn’t make sense for the way I work which is idea first, materials later. In terms of commercial viability, that is never and can never be a priority for me or a motivation for making any of my work. If the work sustains me, that’d be a (complicated) dream but I can never go into making any of it thinking first on how it’s going to work for me. That’d cancel out the weird, the ineffable, the mysteriousness that I get out of the work and making it. In addition, like previously mentioned, it’s hard to imagine a source of financial viability in the current system we exist in that isn’t awfully compromised and completely in opposition to the anti-capitalist aspirations I hold for myself and the world(s) of culture I exist within.

Q: What's good - can be a list - what music/tv/books etc. is working for you right now?

A: Not great at lists but here are some things off the top of my head, subject to change second to second.

  • China Mieville’s October - I’m working on a weird play thing about revolution and this was a great text for this noob. Brilliant and funny and just flows (as much as flow is possible given the events lol).

  • These 2 1980’s Erhu tapes I found at the dump- Listened to this and Classical KDFC (lol) only at Headlands

  • All the music my brilliant friends make: Club Chai (8ulentina and Foozool), The Creatrix, Beast Nest, Nihar Bhatt and of course my one true love and collaborator, Matt Gonzalez Kirkland aka ABAIA aka the other ½ of XUXA SANTAMARIA who crushed every inch of the production of our new album, Chacletas d’Oro (Out in fall! Shameless plug!)

  • Svetlana Alexievich’ s Voices from Chernobyl -- I worked with a lot of first-hand accounts of the hurricane for my latest piece (at BAN8) and someone recommended I read this since it has a similar, poetic instead of academic, organizing strategy and it is blowing my mind. It is heartbreaking, funny, confusing, catastrophic and completely completely unsettling

  • David Markson’s Wittgenstein's Mistress -  Mark Allen who was also at Headlands told me to pick this up and I’m sooooo into it. It is confusing and intense and also really really funny.

  • Bad Bunny 4 ever- so sad I missed him in Oakland last week

  • James Tiptree Jr.’s Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, all of it but specifically, The Girl Who Was Plugged In and Slow Music. Matt’s been after me forever to read this because he just knew that Tiptree is I and I am them (jk jk).

  • Neil Young’s Trans - I looooved this album when I was younger and am revisiting now and finding that not only does it hold up and remain Neil Young’s best album (FIGHT ME!) but that I find new meaning, new ways into it with age.

  • Loreina Santos Silva’s Del Onto -- I found this chapbook in a sales pile at the Libreria del Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña’s bookstore some years back and return to it often. I think of these as words to respond to in my work of late.



aaron harbour