Posición aparente is part of a research project about the scientific expeditions that took place during the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century in order to view and document different astronomical phenomena. In this project Paloma Polo (Madrid, 1983) explores the close relationship between scientific development and colonial expansion by the European imperialist powers. On this occasion, Polo focuses on an expedition undertaken in 1919 by the British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington to Principe Island, a former Portuguese colony in the Gulf of Guinea, to attempt to prove Einstein's Theory of Relativity through the observation of the effects of a total solar eclipse.
There is no visual documentation (neither photographs nor drawings) of this expedition, which was not highly esteemed by the scientific establishment of the times, even though it apparently fulfilled its objective. But there is a commemorative stone on the island in memory of Eddington's visit. In the summer of 2011, at the suggestion of the artist and with the support of the Regional Government of Principe, the stone was moved to the exact spot, just a few metres away, where, according to the artist's research, the viewing of the eclipse took place. Paloma Polo, whose work analyses how we articulate our relationship with images, has made a 16mm film about how the stone was moved with a rudimentary cargo system by descendents of the slaves that worked in the old cocoa plantations on the island. But the film does more than record this event. In it, a key role is played by the status and position of the spectators themselves, to whom the time and space of the events narrated are suggested and at the same time concealed, which means that the viewers themselves must reconstruct and relativize them.
Thus, Paloma Polo's project (which includes a series of photographs that, with the assistance of rigorous historical research, recreate the scene at the specific location and at the very moment that the eclipse was being viewed during Sir Eddington's scientific adventure) reflects on how the position, both physical and ideological, that we occupy and/or from which we observe, conditions our way of seeing and understanding things, looking at the relationship between power and knowledge and revealing the persistence, even in our days, of the colonial logic that made it possible for expeditions such as Eddington's to be conducted. Its intention is not to re-frame a scarcely documented historic event so that it can be explored from a new point of view, but rather to explore how the point of view that ends up becoming dominant is constructed, repositioning the scientist in those expeditions as a historical subject at the service of colonial power.
This exhibition is part of the Miradas de Mujeres Festival, organised by MAV (Women in the Visual Arts)
Reina Sofia Museum's Publications
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