Oedipus in Search of Colonus
Exhibition: – 27 Nov 2022
Fri 22 Apr 15:00
Venice Biennale - GREECE
At the 59th International Art Exhibition of the Biennale di Venezia, Loukia Alavanou is representing Greece by inviting the public to travel through time and space. Her VR360 film and installation Oedipus in Search of Colonus links the cultural heritage of classical Greece – specifically the work of the playwright Sophocles – to the social realities of today by showing the desperate existence of Roma communities in the region of Nea Zoi, west of Athens. Working with a film team and using futuristic technologies, Alavanou cast Roma as actors in the third play of Sophocles’ Oedipus cycle. This film and an accompanying sound installation are presented in a dramatic yet intimate atmosphere within the Greek Pavilion, which becomes a self-reflective island in the middle of one of the world’s biggest international exhibitions. Art an impossible place. U-topia.
The centerpiece of Loukia Alavanou’s installation Oedipus in Search of Colonus is a 15 min film that transposes Sophocles’ almost 2500-year-old drama, Oedipus at Colonus, into the present and tells the story through a combination of docufiction, video clips, farce, and the latest VR technology. Infamous for his horrible deeds, at the end of his life Oedipus is banished from Thebes, and he comes to Colonus to die. For the first time in his tragic life, he goes against the will of the gods. In the face of their resistance, he chooses Colonus as his resting place, a sacred site consecrated by the gods.
In Alavanou’s version, which is filmed in a shantytown inhabited by Roma, an off-screen chorus tells the story. All the roles are played by Roma, amateur actors who lend the narrative a grotesque quality through their exaggerated acting. Their biggest problem is identical to that of the aged Oedipus. Like him, the Roma who today live to the west of Athens in an area not far from Colonus also struggle against their fate. Often lacking any form of citizenship, these nomads are prevented by the Greek authorities from being able to choose a burial site close to their last place of residence.
Oedipus in Search of Colonus is the first VR film shot in Greece that tells a cohesive story. It was filmed using a complicated 360-degree technology, which enables the viewer not only to see but actually experience through their head movements the entire scenarios of interior spaces and drone flights over the settlement. In addition, the sound design is directional, which, like the image, also responds to the movements of the viewer.
Inside the neoclassical architecture of the Greek pavilion, Loukia Alavanou is building hemispherical domes of various sizes, in which there is space for three to five posture chairs based on the designs of the Greek utopian architect Takis Zenetos, who died in 1970. The entire pavilion is kept in semi-darkness, creating a simultaneously theatrical and mysterious atmosphere, which is enhanced by a sound installation played on loudspeakers hidden from view. The sound work includes fragments of the film’s narrative as well as music by Roma. Exhibition staff lead visitors to the individual chairs for viewing the film.