Emma Brasó: In your photographs, videos and installations there is a psychological analysis of perceptions. As an artist, how do you confront representations?
Paloma Polo: I am interested in the symbolic efficiency of representations, particularly of those that even if created with a functional or practical purpose, acquire other values and meanings due to the geopolitical and social context in which they work. Notions such as proof, truth or reality are outdated. I agree with the historian Carlo Ginzburg when he denounces the excessive importance of the term ‘representation’ owing to the varied ways in which it is used.
EB: You’ve written that “it is preferable to think that art is as real as life.” What did you mean by that?
PP: I could reply by quoting Robert Filliou: “Art is what makes life more interesting than art.” One of the best things about being an artist is having the possibility to work without constraining oneself to any specific discipline.
EB: In The Path of Totality (2010), you analyze a series of failed astronomical investigations. Where is the interest in the fiasco coming from?
PP: I’ve been working on this project for more than two years now, and that revolves around the history of astronomy in the 19th and early 20th century. The first piece I showed was composed of 79 photos: fragments of images that indeed correspond to expeditions that failed in scientific terms. My emphasizing failure doesn’t mean that these international astronomic projects were fruitless. Rather, I make use of these circumstances to insist on the sociopolitical function of these investigations. The expeditions to observe eclipses were supported by networks established by imperialism, the expansion of the European economies and technological systems, and the spreading of Western institutions. In this sense, the value of the astronomical projects was independent of the result of a scientific experiment.
EB: Another recent installation, Enough Redundancy in the System (2010), was shot in the Dutch storm surge barrier Maestland. What is the redundant system here?
PP: The title came out of a dialogue with the engineer and operations team who manage this barrier. Part of their job, and main preoccupation, is to guarantee enough redundancy in the system. Being a pioneer engineering project, which has never been used, the way to guarantee the operating capacity of the dam is not only to have spare parts, but also double control systems, routine tests and emergency trials. The video I shot was made on their annual “test closure.” Far from being a documentary, the film tries to embellish a situation that doesn’t occur as a way of responding to a conflict, and legitimates its existence and necessity by producing a reassuring, repetitive performance.
EB: You are immersed in numerous projects and exhibitions. Could you tell us about your coming participation in the Fissures program at the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid?
PP: For Fissures I continue my investigation on astronomic expeditions, focusing this time on one in particular. It will be the final stage of my incursion on this topic.
Paloma Polo was born in 1983 in Madrid. She lives and works in Amsterdam. Selected solo shows: 2011: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Maisterravalbuena, Madrid; Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico City. 2010: Centro Cultural Montehermoso, Vitoria-Gasteiz. 2008: Skor, Amsterdam. Selected group shows: 2011: “Que sais-je?” Agenzia Vera Cortés, Lisbon. 2010: “Antes que Todo,” CA2M, Madrid; “Five Platonic Solids,” Halfhouse, Barcelona.
Emma Brasó is a writer and curator based in Madrid.