What is Thought in the Thought of People
Video HD - 17’
Color and sound.
Drawings by Neil Doloricon.
This film unfolds visually and reflexively from a tale narrated to Polo by the Agta indigenous leader Vic Abajon. His voice-over being the central conceit of the work. The story is presented exactly as it was recorded from Vic, an account of an autobiographical event that occurred in 1973 at San Ildefonso, Casiguran Municipality, Aurora province, Luzon Island, The Philippines. Polo recorded it in 2014 while they were working collaboratively on a research project that was to reflect on the reality of displacement, expropriation, and state violence that Vic’s community was enduring. Such an ordeal also taints the history of this region. Vic’s tale refers symbolically to the workings and effects of land grabbing and capitalist encroachment in the livelihoods and ecology of the Agta tribes. This is a tale where both temporality and territory intertwine: a fragment of local oral history but also a signifying marker of unease and unrest, reaching over into the present time.
This narrative from the Philippines is also the locus of a collaboration between Polo and painter Leonilo Doloricon (Surigao del Sur; 1957- 2021). Here, aural testimony from the ground becomes the starting point of the retinal encounter.
The resulting interactions between the two artists distil how markers of economic integration and unification—so central to institutions of global modernity—surface and recede amidst the spectre of both collapse and grassroots resistance.
Responding to the allegorical character of the elder’s tale, Doloricon’s employment of visual tropes and conventional iconography for the illustrations forms part of what he terms as “paggamit ng simbolong malapit sa karanasang masa, at ang pagsasalarawan sa kanila bilang mga bayani, at bilang mapagpasiyang bagay sa pagbabago ng lipunan” or “use of symbols close to the masses’ experiences, and their portrayal as heroes and decisive forces in social change” (Doloricon, 2016).
The collaboration also highlights how the artists construct their relationships with social movements, within and beyond the art world. Polo’s continuing immersion in the Philippines and in zones of unrest unfolds as a long-term commitment towards emancipatory politics—rather than as a brief excursion or gesture of acquaintanceship—, which translates into her eagerness to work with grassroots organizations and contexts. Doloricon, on the other hand, is an artist associated with the tradition of Social Realism in the country; his work is a testimony of the pragmatic and theoretical considerations of being a cultural worker embedded in the Philippine context.