Poster produced by Tomo and de_sitio featuring stills from Paloma Polo’s 16mm film The Path of Totality – Concepts of Simultaneity. Courtesy the artist, de_sitio, and Tomo
In 2011, Amanda Echeverría, Catalina Lozano, and Daniela Pérez cofounded de_sitio, a nonprofit platform based in Mexico City committed to supporting the development of contemporary art projects. The platform is the product of a unique combination of curatorial and managerial practices. Before her work as an independent curator, Lozano was responsible for Gasworks Residency Program in London. Pérez was Associate Curator at Museo Tamayo, Mexico City, where she organized exhibitions, public programs, and served as the institution’s interlocutor to the Museum as Hub. As Head of Communications and Development at Museo Tamayo since 2010, Echeverría brings key knowledge of public relations, fundraising, and institutional development, rounding out the platform’s core team.
When thinking about the initial structure of de_sitio, the founders decided against programming for a physical space, citing a desire to remain flexible and resourceful in the early stages of its development.
Whereas physical architecture often dictates the shape of a project, which in turn necessitates a regular schedule of activity (as a museum requires an exhibition program, for instance), de_sitio’s model allows the aims and “conceptual architecture” of individual projects to drive its physical manifestation. From a more practical angle, the decision to work without a permanent building also frees the platform from the financial burden of rent, enabling them to devote their resources to develop projects in any number of forms, including exhibitions, performances, publications, and other activities. de_sitio’s program emerges from the interests of its founders with consideration of the infrastructural ecology around them—building upon possibilities that are presented by the people, places, and institutions with which they are in dialogue.
Earlier this year, when de_sitio was approached by Tomo (an arts and culture publication) to use their booth at Zona Maco art fair, they decided to use the opportunity to expand upon a project they had already initiated with the artist Paloma Polo. The collaboration allowed de_sitio to present Polo’s new work at the art fair, to produce a poster insert in Tomo, and to print a brochure on the artist’s work, using the art fair to further their own work as an independent initiative. In the following entry, de_sitio offers a window into Polo’s practice that reveals the political dimensions, which often elude the objective language of scientific inquiry.
Paloma Polo’s work explores the complex relationships that exist between scientific and technological research and political power from a historical perspective, showing how colonial empires economically and politically facilitated the production of knowledge, while instrumentalizing it at the same time. More specifically, Polo has recently looked at overseas expeditions in search of solar eclipses, carried out by several Western powers since the mid-nineteenth century. Polo’s project develops into a series of multifaceted works that unfold the meticulous research in which the artist has been immersed for the past three years.
The images Polo gathers in her different works are structured and conceived from a point of view that privileges the sociocultural history of astrophysics, generating nonlinear stories that allow us to follow and access what seems like less important information—since it is not scientific data—despite forming part of the same history. While science seeks extensive explanations and tends to discard certain “practical aspects” of how conclusions are reached, Polo reveals an almost detective-like attitude in her documents, which contain information about the working conditions of individuals who invested their time on these astrological observations. Polo not only recuperates the movement of the total eclipses across the earth, but also those of the observers. In this manner, Polo unveils social relationships of power, at various levels, by reading between the lines of documents and information originally generated with a scientific objective.
As part of her exhaustive research, and also as closure to this project, Polo conceived a limited edition entitled Eclipse Plate (Eddington’s Observation of an Eclipse May 29th 1919), 2012 (produced by de_sitio). This work investigates the existence of lost images captured in the registry plates produced during the expedition of Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington to the African island of Principe in 1919. Drawing from fragments of correspondence between the artist and librarians, archivists, and astrophysicists, Polo’s plate offers an image in the absence of an image, using the wet collodion printing technique contemporaneous with Eddington’s expedition. It attempts to generate a fragmented explanation from which we can only conclude the impossibility of reaching any certainty.
For more information regarding the overall artistic project/research by Paloma Polo, The Path of Totality, download the bilingual (Spanish/English) pdf of a publication put together by de_sitio with a series of texts by Catalina Lozano.