CCA  Center for Contemporary Art and Ecology 

24 September – 27 November 2022

Diana Policarpo


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Claviceps purpurea is an ergot fungus that grows on the tips of rye and similar cereals. The fungus takes over the plant’s ovary and entangles itself with the conducts that feed the developing seed. At first, contamination takes the shape of a white tissue, to later turn into a compact mass of sclerotium or hardened mycelium—the root-like structure of a fungus composed of long, branching filaments called hyphae. Inside, a concoction of alkaloids and lipids is formed. If used wisely, it has medicinal properties that were applied historically by women to women for reproductive health. If ingested in too much of a quantity, it produces convulsive and hallucinogenic effects, which were notably suffered throughout Europe in the Middle Ages in mass poisonings, thought to be caused by devil-worshipping and witchcraft.

Claviceps Purpurea

In the exhibition NETS OF HYPHAE, Diana Policarpo departs from the study of the ergot fungus as a historical catalyst, for both its intoxicating and healing properties. In the exhibition, ergot outlines genealogies of feminine knowledge and struggle throughout centuries, and it valuably elucidates on the subjugation of women’s bodies for the consolidation of capitalism as a totalising regime, encapsulating economic, social, and cultural structures. Through an array of video, work on paper, sound, and light, Policarpo lays out a sensorial schema that offers a synesthetic experience of the ergot mushroom as a storytelling device, with its multiple hyphae as narrative arcs that disseminate accounts of feminist resistance.

In times of regression in reproductive rights around the world, Diana Policarpo’s work galvanises a compromised awareness of the ancient synergies between people and what the land yields to them, the historical processes of disenchanting the world for the establishment of ‘modernity’ and ‘progress,’ and the rendering of disenfranchised bodies as labour-power for economic expansion and stability. Bodies with uteruses—encompassing women, non-binary, and transgender bodies—have long being policed and subdued under many rhetorical disguises so as to uphold a classist, racist, and patriarchal status quo for the prosperity of capitalism. The acknowledgement that the subjugation of these bodies, with their labour, sexual, and reproductive powers were placed under the control of the state and transformed into economic resources centuries ago, and that we presently live in the active foundations of that system, is the beating heart of Nets of Hyphae. Diana Policarpo exposes the ties between gender politics, economic structures, health struggles, and interrelations among species, unearthing the embroiled threads of ergot and history. 

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Curated by Niekolaas Johannes Lekkerkerk, assisted by Sergi Pera Rusca.

NETS OF HYPHAE is made possible with additional support from the Mondriaan Fund.

About the practice of Diana Policarpo:
Diana Policarpo is a visual artist and composer based between Lisbon and London. She works in visual and musical media including drawing, video, sculpture, text, performance, and multi-channel sound installation. Policarpo investigates gender politics, economic structures, health, and interspecies relations through speculative transdisciplinary research. She creates performances and installations to examine experiences of vulnerability and empowerment associated with acts of exposing oneself to the capitalist world.