Cigua Tales, 2022

Still: “Toxic Blooms”, 2022

Four-channel video installation (color), Ten-channel sound installation
Dimensions variable
Commissioned by TBA21–Academy
Co-produced by TBA21–Academy and Centro de Arte Moderna Gulbenkian, in collaboration with Instituto Gulbenkian Ciência
TBA21 Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Collection

Diana Policarpo gives presence to the Ocean and the stories it holds through research that mutates in many ways.  Taking her point of departure from a research trip to the Portuguese-administered Ilhas Selvagens (Savage Islands) in the North Atlantic Ocean, Policarpo created a case study of mapping colonial histories through tracking natural biodiversity. Small as they are, these islands hold symbolic and also ecological importance. What might seem tiny and remote to humans is not so for algae, birds, fishes, and rocks that speak of the geological formation of a continent and the currents that determine the course of the seasons and the survival of many species. 

The title Cigua Tales refers to poisoning that occurs after eating fish contaminated with accumulated ciguatoxins. This results from the fish feeding on toxic macroalgae containing Gambierdiscus. Outbreaks of ciguatera are well documented in the Savage Islands area. Yet, the exact cause of the intermittent increase in the release of toxins resulting in poisonings up the food chain remains unknown. However, nuclear testing has been suggested as one possible cause. It is an example of various anthropogenic damage caused by humans treating the world as their property.

I am an island but I’m not really an island.
I’m a multitude of identities and bodies, within the same formation.
We have evolved together in total isolation.
My name is Selvagem, but I prefer to be called Aea.
My body is made of the remains of submarine volcanic peaks.
Innumerable myths and legends are preserved in my fossils.

I have evolved in an entirely different way.
Before the First Door had opened, there was gold embedded in my mantle by showers of meteorites. The impacts of these storms were so deep that I still bear the scars, like craters on an ocean Moon. Petrified matter, carrying deep time in their intricate embrace, coagulated the past into an animated history, forming fossil-like patterns.
I am a rift in the surface of materiality.
European traders once thought I was a ghost.
Some erratic rocks rising up next to an island of sirens and lizards. These are the very same rocks where Perseus had laid Medusa’s head to rest among the seaweed.
A forest of corals had grown around me like a crown of thorns.

I have become a hallucinatory body.

Excerpt from Diana Policarpo’s video work When the Sea Swallows in Cigua Tales