Paloma Polo - Action at a distance [Superposición]
Sabrina Amrani is pleased to present Action at a distance [Superposición], an online proposal in the context of Paloma Polo's first exhibition in the gallery.
As curator Catalina Lozano said, in Paloma Polo’s practice, various interests converge in the relationship that science and technology have with economic, social and political developments insofar as they facilitate and instrumentalise them and in the way that such relationships can be explored and known. The research methods the artist employs are developed according to the interdisciplinarity her projects require, because Polo is not a historian, scientist, sociologist or anthropologist. Her methodology could be considered close to that developed in the first half of the twentieth century by the intellectuals connected with the Annales magazine, who favoured the need to associate various areas of knowledge in social sciences in order to achieve a wider view of an area of study.
In her multifaced project The Path of Totality, Polo embarks on an investigation of the expeditions to observe solar eclipses that various Western powers have carried out since the mid-nineteenth century. Although these expeditions were apparently in search of purely scientific results, the political networks that made them possible were based on power structures that acted according to the logic of expanding Western institutions and markets; in other words, a colonialist and imperialistic logic.
Polo would basically invent the expeditions that failed in scientific terms, not because she has any special interest in the notion of failure, but because by stripping these expeditions of their scientific value, failure offers the possibility of focusing on their parallel stories; on the small pieces of evidence that enable an understanding of how this context was appropriated and observed. In other words, she allowsthe explorers to be positioned as historical subjects representing specific interests and revealing characteristic idiosyncrasies in their observations.
The captivating constructions produced with local materials are circumstantial adaptations that supported the equipment necessary for studying the eclipses. All the paraphernalia that these scientific observations implied was based on local labour and on power relationships that have still not been studied but that are revealed not by scientific data but by the anecdotal tales ignored by science.
The Path of Totality, 2010.
Slide Film. 45 × 50 cm. Ed. 3/3
[..] As The Path of Totality depicts the very constructs of human ingenuity —telescopes in their temporary sites for the observation of the eclipse—, it exposes the precariousness of scientific endeavours vis-à-vis its all-encompassing theories. Anti-monuments, these architectures stand for a never-to-be-achieved totalizing impetus towards epistemological unification, hence their very eclectic edifice is the result of a rather violent, adversely syncretic manoeuvre; one that derives as much from the supposed abstraction of scientific pursue as from the heterogeneous reality surrounding their own construction —invariably dependant on local labour, technology and source of materials [...]
- Bernardo José de Souza
One of the decisive factors that determine the location where an eclipse would be observed at its best is defined by the name "The Path of Totality" : the projection of the shadow of the Moon on the Earth, it is a stripe of darkness covering a section of the globe during the eclipse. The zone of totality would be in complete darkness during this phenomena. Astronomical calculations predict with absolute precision any future or past Path of Totality.
This map merges in one sole image all the Path of Totality of total solar eclipses thrown on the Earth since 1851, when the first solar eclipse expedition took place, until the present date.
It results on a "map of darkness" that represents literally and metaphorically to the flux of journeys, political and economical expansions.
Sombra Arrojada (Thrown Shadows), 2011-2021.
Pigment print on cotton paper Zerkall Artrag 300gr. 100 × 140 cm. Ed. 1/4
Concepts of Simultaneity, 2011.
16 mm film digitalized. Ed. 2/4
Action at a distance, 2012
16 mm film transferred to HD video. 00:19:35. Ed. 3/5
Stills from Others’ Views, 2011.
6 photographic prints. 120 × 495 cm. Ed. 1/3
On the Difficulties of Picturing the Event, 2011.
4 text collages. 36 × 121 cm.
The collages, On the Difficulties of Picturing the Event, are narrative threads patching fragments of accounts of these experiences, evidencing the inconclusive nature of some of the observations, the personal experiences recounted in the logs and diaries, and the general apparatus that facilitated the production of scientific knowledge.
One could argue that, through these works, Polo adheres to the “constructivist ambition”, which “demands that we accept that any of our bodies of knowledge, any of our convictions, any of our truths cannot transcend the status of ‘construction’.
It demands that we assert their immanence to history, and that we take an interest in the means invented, in the authorities invoked to support their pretention to a stability that would transcend history, for these means and these authorities are, in their turn, constructions, as are the former.
[...] the series Simultaneity is not an Invariable Concept represents the unachievable site for a total enlightenment of the eclipse: paradoxically, a dead zone of obscurity, a standstill for all ontological and anthropological queries remaining to be grasped in the wake of the 1919 expedition. This series of 7 photographs, produced by the same vintage technology, are rigorous virtual re-enactments of a hidden dimension in time, as if the images had been taken from a diversity of vantage points during the very moment when the total eclipse was being observed by Eddington in the remote colonial villa in the plantations of roca Sundy —an unfeasible task back then, given the size and weight of cameras, and their poor accuracy at dark. Notwithstanding, the absence of human presence in those desolate photographs is as revealing of the lack of data about the expedition in anthropological regards as it is suggestive of a muted sense of obliviousness towards the immediate surroundings that ultimately enabled such observation on material grounds. As phantasmagorias of an unattainable past, these images conjure simultaneous perspectives over the stillness of an impenetrable moment in history: the time-lapse of a life-changing eclipse —if not for the inhabitants of Principe Island, for the purposes of a modern world; of science and scientists alike [...]
- Bernardo José de Souza
Simultaneity is not an Invariable Concept , 2012
7 Collodion wetplate photographs (ambrotypes), Glass plates. 20 × 25 cm.