Interview with Jimena Mendoza
Asked by Michal Novotný
You made many of the works presented with your own hands and without using any specific technological procedures, except for the base of painting, moulding, and firing. Is it important for you to touch the material?
I have always been impressed with the invention of things, as a response to a basic or primitive urge to build something that you need; and suddenly you start inhabiting the world. In this sense, my hands have always been involved in my projects as my primary tools. But I am also very conscious of doing something with my human capital: of spending hours and hours of work to create something, of investing my energy in a piece intended to be imperfect and impure. Just like in the Navajo rugs, I like that my work contains a spirit line, a human error, and although the result can be considered industrial, I like to imply a contradiction.
This is why I am deeply interested in handicrafts, in reproduction and the uniqueness that can exist in serial work and is in contrast with the faultless mechanical-technological precision.
The ceramic, textile or glass, which I often use, have these qualities. For example, the impulse to transform in a few steps the soil from the mountains, to fire it and make of it a kind of stone, but cultured one… I love the process of transformation of elements involving complex meaning and shapes.
To a certain degree, your works underline their hand-made nature, but at the same time, this impression is erased due to their almost inhuman perfection and unearthly presence. What’s your feeling about the relation between the ideal and the realization, the perfection and the imperfection, the tension between the poverty of some materials and the noble ideas they represent?
I’m very sensitive about the context, about the things that the territory offers as fruits in the field, the remnants of the culture, the contemporary archeology of the world, the decay, which is an unavoidable course of things, the world of progress.
I’m constantly walking backwards, trying to catch the origin of the mess or the splendor of the things that are dying.
You also work often with traces, tarnishing and patina; with degradation, scarification and decay. What does this represents for you?
I love the sentence by Jorge Luis Borges in his Aleph where he wrote: “I felt infinite wonder, infinite pity.”
To me, the contradiction and the feelings provoked by tarnishing things are very powerful, and it explains my interest in glaze, tarnishing, and patina. I try to avoid the flat, absolute, shiny surface.
This formal factor relates to my research and interest in contradiction: in illusion and disillusion enclosed by modernism and the open gap between these concepts.
There is a touch of folkloric and vernacular but also of extra-terrestrial and mystical. Do you intentionally work with those elements?
In the past years, I have been researching different cultural origins; I am very much interested in cosmovisions and historical traces.
When I came to Czech Republic in 2013, I thought for the first time about the outer space as a human. I visualized the cosmogony of universe during the 1960s as part of a continental modernist utopian project.
The possibility of existence of other entities, other beings in the universe excited me, and consequently I discovered important cultural fictions: just think of Golem, the mythical Jewish anthropomorphic, extraordinary fictional being, or the first robot of Karel Čapek. This explains why I’m still not interested in watching any of the Stars Wars movies.
I have never been interested in science-fiction before; my interest in fiction is very local. To be precise, it is about the singular atmosphere the history, the context and events resulted in here in the Czech Republic.
Could some of your pieces be seen as traces of the past civilizations found in a museum of archeology? Would you say you’re more oriented towards the future, the past or the present?
I’m very happy with the present. I love having the possibility of seeing the past as a condensed chunk of time. I have been very touched by future projected in the past - it is a capsule of hope, of invention and dreams, and at the same time it is a nightmare, a disaster, a catastrophe and totalitarianism.
My intention about this period is to take back the lost energies and the dreams of other times and use them to question the present. I’m definitely far from reviving or illustrating this period with my works. My intention is to create new items. I’m interested in creating an iconographic project, an excursion into a personal cosmovision that would put together studies, visions, experiences, misunderstandings, free translations, my own baggage and unavoidable cultural signs (Mexico).
I am unable to visualize my future, I am like the Tuvans who believe that the past is in front of them, which is why they can see it, but the future is behind their backs, so they can’t see it. This is why it is a permanent surprise.
People often classify you and your art as “Mexican”. Is this cultural heritage important for you? Do you intentionally try to deal with it in any way?
I’m not terribly proud to be Mexican but we cannot choose our ancestors. The first thing I wanted to study in my life was anthropology but I didn’t. Anyway I think that my interests go very often in this direction. I like to search and learn from human manifestations, habits and customs.