Fascination with the fifteenth-century Persian manuscript گوي وچوگان، يا حالنامه عارفي (The Ball and the Polo Stick, or the Book of Ecstasy) takes film-maker and researcher Furqat Palvan-Zade on a journey across elusive geographies of Central Eurasia, challenging the notion of history as something static and well-defined. While commonly associated with the European upper classes, polo originated in the nomadic spaces of Central Eurasia. The film considers this sport a metaphor for the colonial histories of the last few centuries. By delving into the poetic text of the Book of Ecstasy, Palvan-Zade aims not only to make a decolonial gesture of reclaiming polo’s origins but also to narrate the stories of the violent geopolitical games played by western superpowers in Central Eurasia. The kaleidoscope of stories unfolding around the manuscript features Sufi metaphors, imperial Russian generals, a thief-turned-oligarch, and the Karabakh horse gifted by Nikita Khruschv to Queen Elizabeth II. Unpacking these narratives, Palvan-Zade tries to provide a glimpse of the particularities and commonalities that constitute the fascinating—and sometimes absurd—socio-geographic mosaic of today’s world.
Work in the exhibition: The Ball and the Polo Stick, or the Book of Ecstasy (2022), single-channel video, 23'. Courtesy of the artist