Polysaccharide — The Dollhouse Drama (2000) / Wawi Navarroza


When Wawi Navarroza’s “Polysaccharide – The Dollhouse Drama” (2000) was shown at Noorderlicht in 2006, the Dutch photofestival presented the series as a metaphor for the lives of Filipino women coming of age in a society shackled by parental domination.

Navarroza has since maintained that the work is not gender driven. The Filipino artist also stressed that the series is done from a personal point-of-view. While there are societal issues tied to the work, Navarroza’s focus is on the psyche of the individual living in the Philippines and how the society acts as an obstacle to the youth’s progress into adulthood. She hopes that viewers will see a mirror instead of a window when they look at the work.

In almost paradoxical fashion, Navarroza has emphasized the fluidity of her work while maintaining the need to approach it in the “right” way. Nonetheless, this little interlude has not diminished the work’s poignancy.

Conceptualization for the project was minimal, apart from drawing little “storyboards” in her head and translating them into physical scenarios in terms of locations, subjects and costumes.

“I recorded my idea on monochrome film, processed it in the darkroom, and then, upon seeing the inadequate translation of the idea vis-à-vis the recorded images, I got frustrated and threw the negatives on the floor,” recalls the photographer. “I stomped on them and left them there, buried in dust. A few days later, I started experimenting with chemicals. I sought the alchemists’ obsessions: extremes of temperature, wet and dry, light and dark, intrepid abandon and precise control.”

Navarroza took a tactile approach in producing the work, even though she is apt at digital manipulation, as she was drawn to the romance of the process. Polysaccharide, the protagonist in the series, is an imaginary character weaved into the non-linear narrative. The photographer, who also sings for a rock band in the Philippines, is not sure if the narrative is “autobiographical”, since every click of the shutter is essentially autobiographical. However, after seeing her work, many teenage girls have told her that they somehow relate to the series. Perhaps this is what she means when she says she wants the series to be a mirror.

[ “The Third Mind” from “Polysaccharide — The Dollhouse Drama” / Courtesy of Wawi Navarroza ]