The Path of Totality
Projection of 79 slides.
(Projection size 45 cm. aprox. in its largest side).
→ Superposición. Solo show at Gallery Sabrina Amrani
→ Presentation at the 55th Venice biennial. Curated by Massimiliano Gioni
→ Research project: residency at Gasworks, London
→ Behind the light. Group show at Gallery Pedro Cera
In Paloma Polo’s body of work, various interests converge over the genealogy of Western sciences and technologies, and how their intertwined agencies impact social, economic, and political grounds. By dismantling the political instrumentalization of such epistemologies, the artist problematises their subjacent violent hierarchies.
In The Path of Totality, Polo embarks on an investigation of the expeditions set to observe solar eclipses that various Western powers have carried out since the mid-nineteenth century. Although these expeditions were theoretically in search of purely scientific results, the political networks that made them possible were devised according to the logic of expanding Western institutions and markets; in other words, a colonialist and imperialistic drive.
Polo made a visual inventory and a repository of these expeditions based on photographic records left by astronomers themselves, now globally scattered in diverse archives and observatories. The intriguing constructions produced with local materials are circumstantial adaptations, temporary observatories, that supported the equipment necessary for studying the eclipses. All the paraphernalia that these scientific observations required was made possible by local labour (not infrequently enslaved) and based on power relationships that have not yet been fully studied —political entanglements that may not be apparent in scientific data but could conversely be unveiled by so-called anecdotal tales ignored by science.
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.