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Interview with Kim Córdova
Mexico City

Kim Córdova is a Mexico City-based artist and writer (Momus, Art Agenda, Frieze, Art Review, San Francisco Art Quarterly). She describes* her relationship to Mexico City, working life and one of her art projects.

Why do you live and work in Mexico City? You are originally from California. I came to Mexico City for the first time in 2011 for the Soma Summer and really fell for the city as well as for Soma. After the summer program ended I moved to San Francisco to start an MFA and during the whole semester I was there I kept thinking that Soma had a more interesting and dynamic curriculum and that Mexico City was a much more interesting place to make work. It was a really humbling and painful decision but I decided to leave the MFA and soon after was invited to participate in Soma’s two-year academic program. It was a bit for an experiment since I was the first US citizen to participate, but now I’ve been here six years and feel very committed to life in Mexico so I think its safe to say the experiment went well. 

Kim Córdova

What does Mexico City mean to you? Mexico City is a complicated place. Mexico can be a source of rage and frustration and despair, like a lot of places right now. In the best cases, the rage and frustration is channeled into proactivity. A lot of the movement and energy in Mexico City is coming from the DIY artist run spaces, from a spirit of radical generosity and a desire to make visible what artists and curators feel is missing from the panorama. In that way there is a sense of optimism here and a tangible value that is placed on the present moment. I think that spirit is ultimately very empowering, and when people visit they really tune into and respond to it. 

Which exhibition subverted your expectations? Walid Raad and General Idea: Broken Time at Museo Jumex were high points.  

Which artworks were astonishing? Astonishing is a big word! The Camel Collective work at Parque gallery is very strong and Ektor Garcia at Kurimanzutto that Chris Sharp curated was also really great. 

Is political art a good constellation? I pretty much fall into the all work is political camp. That said, whether a work can be considered a good constellation I think it really comes down to execution and the way that it is contextualized. 

What about myths or narratives around contemporary Mexican art? There are so many. Since the scene is small relative to other places a few people have tried to claim themselves as representative of this generation or that of contemporary Mexican art. I always find these narratives very exploitative.

As an artist – what are your matters of interest? Do you have an exhibition project? I’ve been invited by Ricardo Alzati to exhibit it at his alternative project space, Héctor. The piece will be a video installation about a corner in my neighborhood where a broken down chicken truck—literally a non-operable pick-up truck outfitted to sell raw chicken—was parked for years. The presence of the truck created a curious phenomenon in that it blocked the city’s security cameras making the corner an ideal location for selling drugs etc. This largely nocturnal activity kept that corner from gentrifying. When one of the buildings there was purchased and celebrity chef Enrique Olvera opened his restaurant, the truck had to move and gentrification accelerated dramatically almost overnight – and the chicken truck is now gone. The idea is to make a piece about an anthropomorphic chicken who navigates informal systems confronting this moment in which gastronomy is becoming an important source of Mexican soft power. 

As a writer – your greatest challenges? There are a lot. One of the biggest hurdles is basic survival really. Rent, access to healthcare, etc. It shouldn’t be an excuse that the publishing world is famous for low wages or late payment. This undervaluing of labor bleeds into so many other issues, but a precarious workforce is not a productive one; it’s ultimately a sick one. Beyond that when we tell people their work is so minimally valuable we are also undermining their basic dignity. This affects the whole arts sector. 

One of the trickier situations I am trying to navigate now is that of “conflicts of interest”. It seems really strange that some conflicts of interest the international art community seems predisposed to stomach and others not. Creatives, be they artists, writers, curators, makers etc. are going to keep creating, which is to say generating side projects. But when their day jobs don’t pay them enough to live they have to start side-projects to piece a living together. 

Sure, context weighs on certain specific situations. But the standards that we have in place and should be holding our selves and our sector to are there for the greater good. They should be honored. But then the question remains, how do you keep working and producing under such unevenly applied standards, much less with minimal resources?  

After a while in Mexico City are you searching for challenge or convenience? Conveniences! I would love to live in a place with connected gas and water pressure. As for the challenges, they tend to present themselves without much needing to seek them out. There are a number of challenge-heavy projects I’d like to start, a book, the video installation project etc., but a lot of the challenge of those projects comes down to time management. Which I have yet to master. 

Must-sees in town for #artbooklovers? Aeromoto is a terrific space started by a group of artists as a response to the difficulty of getting art books in Mexico. Alumnos has a great library. Casa Bosques is nice to browse. Index Art Book Fair is coming up and there is Gato Negro. There aren’t too many options because the truth is art books and international art magazines are very difficult to get in Mexico. There is minimal distribution to Latin America, I assume, because a mass market just isn’t here to support it. Wages here in general are just too low for people to be able to buy art books.

Thank you Kim!

*Interview (summer 2017): Dajana Dorfmayr 

Kim is now working for the NGO Direct Relief and the glass company Nouvel Limited.

Solo exhibitions: “The Dodo’s Verdict”, Casa Mauuad (Mexico City, DF), and Brief Encounters with Tezcatlipoca at Bikini Wax (Mexico City, DF). 
Group exhibitions: In Guadelajara, Mexico; Bogotá, Columbia; Los Angeles; and the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art in San Francisco.