Leslie Moody Castro is an independent curator and writer based in Mexico City and Texas where she has produced, organized and collaborated on projects for more than a decade. Her practice relies on itinerancy and collaboration, and her repertoire of critical writing and exhibitions illustrates her commitment to place in her practice.
In addition to the belief that the visual arts create moments of empathy, Moody Castro also believes that Mariachis make everything better.
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We have contacted the residents whose residencies at NART got cancelled and postponed due to COVID-19 crisis. We asked them to share their thoughts over the current situation – how it has affected them and where did they spend their residency period instead.
I am currently sitting at my dining room table in Mexico City. I’ve been in Mexico through nearly all the COVID crisis, and with the exception of two weeks at a residency in a neighboring mountain town, I literally feel like I have been sitting at this same spot at my dining room table for an entire six week.
When COVID became a reality, I was in Austin, Texas, finishing up an installation. The panic shopping, hoarding, and toilet paper crisis escalated my anxiety and coupled with the fact that whomever wasn’t panicking about toilet paper (or lack thereof), simply wasn’t taking the situation seriously. I withstood the risk and hopped on a plane home to Mexico City. I settled in at home by ordering a ton of books from amazon, and signing up for a coding class at Stanford University on my dad’s recommendation. The books and the class provided a way to pass the time as the projects and residencies began to cancel or postpone one by one.
I am not a curator who will argue for an exhibition when the world is falling apart. I value the work that we do as creatives and cultural arbitrators, and see that value in the long term effects of education and community building. However, in a moment where human life is the absolute priority, cancellations and postponements are side effects through which I am perfectly comfortable pausing the work.
If all had gone to plan, I would be arriving in Narva today, May 3rd, for a residency to last 4-6 weeks, with an extension to travel to Moscow and St. Petersburg. This was to be the second time that work and life would take me back to Estonia, a country that I have fallen in love with, and where I have good, good friends I miss very much. This time, my focus was to be on Narva, a border city that I have become endlessly fascinated with. I am a border kid at heart, I was born in a small town on the Texas/Mexico border, half my family still lives there, and I have a special relationship with places that are neither here nor there, but both. My time in Narva was supposed to be a way to think beyond my own borders, to make friends and learn from their guidance…to just be and learn in a different place.
Instead I am now sitting at my kitchen table writing about missing Narva, even though I’ve never been.
I am a natural introvert, and capable of spending weeks alone at home in quiet. I appreciate the quiet when I have it. Work keeps me on the road, and I wouldn’t change that for anything. Weirdly, this means that when I am finally home in Mexico City, it’s like being on vacation, and I savor every second of it.
The first five weeks of quarantine were fine. I passed the time reading—Harry Potter, and books one and two of the Neapolitan series, if you’re curious—checking in on friends, and attempting to learn coding. It was in week six where I started to feel the magnitude of loss.
I miss my friends. I miss the simple gestures of inviting someone over for a drink. I miss purpose, even if that purpose is a reason to shower. I miss excitement, and sharing a silent joke. I miss smiling.
I’ve become weary of the zoom calls, and the rhetoric associated with trying to change our lifestyles to accommodate something bad. Taking a “pause,” and “digital shift,” or “pivot,” have started to sound like nails on a chalkboard. While I appreciate the gesture, the quick move to digital life has completely overwhelmed me. We are all coping, but there seems to be an undercurrent of shifting cultural content online in an attempt to make a bad situation seem a little more okay. Is it possible that it can just not be okay?
I am finally exhausted from endless conversations about “this present moment” about COVID-19 being the only thing that connects us (which I don’t believe, by the way), and the prison that is my face mask. In week six I finally started to grieve the loss of things that hadn’t happened yet, the experiences and the life that was supposed to be, but was so relentlessly interrupted.
I am lucky, and I recognize that. I can articulate these things at my dining room table in full health and comfort, but “lucky” doesn’t absolve the grief. It feels like a thousand tiny deaths, or a million little break-ups for relationships that ended before being offered a chance to develop. It feels like grieving alone on an island. Things aren’t okay, and it’s okay to say so.
Today is Sunday. It’s a sad Sunday, which seems to be one in a week of sad Sundays because every day blends into the next relentlessly. Like many others, I am wondering where this temporary normal will take us. I think about it constantly, and particularly how it will affect my work if I can’t give someone a hug. I have gone through the phases of real heartbreak in response to this temporary reality, but continually find myself looking for solace in a hopeful future where moments like this remind me not to take the small gestures of friendship for granted.