Building Block

Building Block

Su Wu

Photography by Maureen M. Evans

Mexico City based writer, curator, mother, editor, poet and founder of shop Casa Ahorita and gallery V.V. Sorry, Su Wu, carries many roles—though she is best known to us as one of our dearest friends. When we first encountered Su through her blog, I’m Revolting, in the early 2000's, we were drawn to her discerning eye, quickly became friends, and then discovered a kinship that went beyond a coincidental and shared last name. 2012 was an exciting but erratic time for our business, and Su was someone who indulged in our early ideas and who we could always trust for a spontaneous time. Since then, we have been lucky enough to call one another family, travel the world together, and see many cities through Su's adventurous, open eyes.

Now, she resides in Mexico City with her partner Alma Allen, daughter Isadora, son Octavio, two dogs Billy + Sugar, and a recently acquired cat who remains casually unnamed. Here, she takes a moment to talk to us about her truths and also indulge us with her spectacular array of Building Block Bags—what better evidence of an abiding friendship :)

Can you describe what you did, what you do, what you want to do?

Someone recently sent me a passage from Susan Sontag’s journals – I’d never read the first volume, the one that starts when she’s 15, where apparently you can see Sontag discovering how to be a person, or testing out pronouncements. And there’s a great line in it, about just being really hungry for knowledge, but also not wanting it to be an official thing. Like basically I had a string of jobs in my 20s that allowed me to read all day and not always get to choose what I was reading, and it was perfect for my 30s where I looked at a lot of stuff, and to know what I am looking at.

Also, for the longest time I wanted to open a little craft shop, and you guys never gave up on me – you let me talk it out every time the impulse arose. And now I have a little shop in my garage in Mexico City, and I am an absolutely terrible shopkeep, like the store is open maybe 20 minutes every three weeks, and I am constantly giving things away, especially if it’s something that has sat there unnoticed for a while, and then one day someone comes in and asks after it. I’m not trying to sound my own generosity or idiocy; I don’t think I’m exceptionally either of those. Only that I probably wanted to have a shop for the same reason I started a blog all those years ago – a general loneliness – and maybe also hoping to be able to say in some sort of sustained way that here, here in this life, here were things that I loved, that have instigated moments of insight, that have lent my days some joy.

You’re the best story teller, can you remind us of how we met/came to be friends.

You know, I like to tell people that we are related, and not just when we are traveling together so we only have to fill out one customs form; it’s just this easy shorthand way to say that these friends are important to me, in a way that feels sort of obvious but taken-for-granted sometimes, too. I guess now the secret is out! We met, of all things, through a car, a 1972 BMW 2002. I had a white one, and Kimberly still has a yellow one, and it gave us an excuse to send messages, and then to have you both over to eat a celery root pot pie, and then you moved down the street from me, and now I can’t imagine life without you.

Tell us about a collection you keep (we know you have many!)

I have a lot of stuff, it’s true, but none of the groupings are very deep. Like I have two Hopi vases with ants on them, two folding forks, two paintings of volcanoes. You might even say that I collect pairs, except for the most important collection to me, which is my collection of small hand-carved sculptures by Alma Allen in stone and wood, mostly from the 90s. I have maybe hundreds of them and some are silly, like he just made so many butterflies – and I would trade everything else to keep just one. It’s a little like owning the Dead Sea Scrolls or something; they are evidence for a belief that is constantly being tested by loving someone who isn’t really that into being around me. I don’t mean this as a sadness. I mean I have the resolve of a person who has looked into the face of real genius, and the genius has said please leave me alone, and then I married the genius. The joke is that these are the sculptures that no one would give him $20 for when he was selling them on the sidewalk, trying to get enough to eat. Anyway, they are mine now.

What about your life now would be most unexpected to your younger self?

Alma just texted to say good night, and I sent him this question by way of explaining what I’m doing after Isa and Ocho have gone to bed, and he suggested an answer: “Someone loves you!” It’s true, this might have surprised me once.

I want to tell her something else, though: That it is possible to be this not okay, this mentally unhinged and maybe not even a good person, and still be mostly happy.

Can you share an upcoming project you’re excited about?

I’ve got a little open showroom exhibition in my space in Mexico City right now, of new stools by Alma, along with works by Sara Bozzini, Matthias Kaiser, Minjae Kim, Sarah Nsikak and Brian Thoreen — all works that carry their own weight, that seem to me like Alma’s pieces to have a private gravity. And working on an exhibition of functional work, too, by Mexican artists for Rockefeller Center in May. It will be in the post office! And then in the meantime, I am super excited to have been asked to be part of the Nasher Prize Dialogues this year, honoring the artist Nairy Baghramian, and in particular to prepare some thoughts on objects that “bend the banner of craft” and ”hover between identities and share abstract sympathies,” as the request put it so beautifully.

How do you feel, at your age, right now?

I actually don’t know if it is possible to have true feelings about an age, or to isolate moments of age, like how it is not actually possible to lose time or waste time, because time is not a thing that is extricable from you? And I think most of all, despite my attempts in this interview, that maybe the premise of being able to reflect from the vantage point of “now” creates a disjuncture that doesn’t really exist. I guess I felt as much like myself at 17 as I will at 40, even though from the outside it is as Yeats said, “But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you / And loved the sorrows of your changing face.” I believed in my taste, as I do now, because I enjoyed looking; I believed in my capacity to think through the world, and to be honest with myself about my shortcomings, and to find the few people who would be important to me and to love them as long as I could.

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