A Fleeting Moment of Dissidence Becomes Fossilised and Lifeless After the Moment has Passed
40 inkjet prints on cotton paper.
Silk print on glass.
51,5 x 34,5 cm each.
The series of images presented are derived from collaborative research undertaken by Polo in dialogue with Naty Merindo, at the time an 85-year-old Agta woman living in the Peninsula of San Ildefonso, Casiguran, Philippines. The research also involved the support and collaboration of Ulysses Ferreras, a Filipino botanist whose knowledge of taxonomy was essential for the undertaking. Each plant presented is accompanied by its local name, as indicated by Naty Merindo, and the scientific name provided by Ulysses Ferreras. Naty Merindo, the only indigenous healer who was then living in the area, and the last one, claimed knowledge on more than 200 plants endemic to her locality and the medicinal properties they are said to possess. Orally transmitted since ancestral times, this knowledge is now on the brink of extinction. The profit-oriented socialization of younger generations engendered by the long-term discrimination and disenfranchisement experienced by the community largely contributes to the threat to these knowledges.
Due to its practical necessity and applicability, indigenous medicinal knowledge functions in the area as a crucial alternative to the impossibly expensive, inaccessible, and inefficient health system provided by the local and national government. In the course of intermittent stays with Naty Merindo in the forest, Polo was able to collect and photograph a total of 80 plants the former could find. The uses of the plants, including their medicinal preparations, were likewise noted in the process. Each specimen was then labelled according to the methodology indicated by Ulysses Ferreras.
A fleeting moment of dissidence becomes fossilized and lifeless after the moment has passed, which serves as the title for this work, is a statement plucked from the essay “What Can Activist Scholars Learn from Rumi?”, written by social justice activist Radha D’Souza, who was collaborating with Polo at the time. The title-statement is taken here as demonstrative of the counterattack of Capital in the face of widespread resistance to its sham, yet no less comprehensive occurrence. Capital’s counterattack involves the aggressive appropriation of knowledge and its manoeuvring to delimit all spaces as sites of profit.
It is a task that the photographic objects presented here attempt to enact by providing representation for an outlawed image: the very unnaturalness of the fantasy of the whole on which capitalism ultimately rests. What is exposed in the process is the invisible presence of structural antagonism traversing the social body in its totality. Only by thinking capitalist abstractions —and keeping open the fundamental disjunction occulted by this very system— can the fleeting moment of dissidence serve other ends: as a moment for creation and the appearance of the new.