Sofía Córdova at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park

Living & Working

Sofía Córdova at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park

By Sofía Córdova March 20, 2019

How does one survive and thrive as an artist in the San Francisco Bay Area? Living & Working is a multi-platform column focusing on the experiences and strategies from those who continue to live and work in the Bay Area.


Born in 1985 in Carolina, Puerto Rico and currently based in Oakland, California, Sofía Córdova's work considers sci-fi and futurity, dance and music culture(s), the internet, mystical things, extinction and mutation, migration, and climate change under the conditions of late capitalism and its technologies. 

She first moved to the US to attend the early college program at Simon's Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. She completed her BFA at St. John’s University in conjunction with the International Center for Photography in New York City in 2006. In 2010 She received her MFA from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. She has exhibited and performed at SFMOMA, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Berkeley Art Museum, the Arizona State University Museum, the Vincent Price Museum, and other venues internationally such as Art Hub in Shanghai and the MEWO Kunsthalle in Germany. She has participated in residencies at the BAVC in San Francisco, Arteles in Finland, Mills College Museum in Oakland and the ASU Museum’s International Artist residency in Phoenix. Last fall she produced a new suite of performances, videos and sound compositions in Spain in an artist exchange supported by Spanish embassy in Washington DC and the city of Málaga, Spain. Most recently she was an artist in residence at The Headlands Center for the Arts. 

Her work is currently featured in the latest edition of Bay Area Now at San Francisco’s YBCA. It is also part of Pier 24’s and The Whitney Museum’s permanent collections and has been the subject of a First Look feature in Art in America. 

She is one half of the music duo, XUXA SANTAMARIA. In addition to discrete projects, performances, and albums the duo collectively scores all of her video and performance work. 

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The following transcript has been edited for clarity.

My name is Sofía Córdova. I am from Carolina, Puerto Rico. She, her, they, them. This place holds multi-significance for me, because it's both a place that I frequent as a person in the world and it’s also significant for my work. 

I started coming here maybe about 2012, 2013, when I started Echos of a tumbling throne (Odas al fin de los tiempos). This work is a video, performance, and music piece about life fifteen hundred years in the future. It sort of imagines this post-apocalyptic scenario. I am less interested in apocalypse and more interested in life after that. As you can see, this place has a lot of resonance with that theme. 

As I think a lot about climate change, as I want to do in my work, I think a lot too about how even this super industrial landscape is going to be damaged, and might be without birds, without trees, and without some sort of future. And for me, it's kind of heartening to kind of come to it and meet it where it’s at.

You have a really great view of the city from here, and that’s another thing that I’m really interested in: sitting at the foot of empire. I’m thinking less of American empite and more of the tech empire that we subsist under. I look at it as this quiet, distant, super industrial place, that, to me, speaks of a different kind of labor than tech labor. For me, it highlights the ongoing struggle of the Bay Area.

I stay here because I feel really, really indebted and connected to my communities here. My other project—my performance project, XUXA SANTAMARIA—is a performance project that also has a music component. We started playing a bunch of clubs and became a part of the Oakland music scene in this other way, and that is really where I found my drive. Coming into contact with, befriending, and becoming family with so many important, huge POC artists and musicians, particularly became not just a source of intense inspiration—it makes me emotional just thinking about it—but also something to fight for. In the face of incoming change—a change that wants to be homogenous, a change that doesn't want to have conversations about and across class and race—I feel like, even though I’m just a drop in the bucket, putting my roots down really matters—not just for me. Again, what it means in a larger political scope. 

At the same time, I also recognize I have this role as an artist that I’m always negotiating. I also know that there’s plenty of people that are being displaced that are less privileged than I am, in many ways: in terms of their visibility, in terms of their access to not just capital, but to places to express themselves, whether artistically or just voicing their opinion. I want to couch that because I think it is important that the arts here and everywhere really recognize their role in all of this. And I’m not saying this as a condemnation—I’m just saying it's something that needs to happen.

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Living & Working is funded in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency.

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