Critics’ Picks

Louis-Philippe Scoufaras, Omphalos, 2016, single-channel video projection, color, sound, 90 minutes.


Louis-Philippe Scoufaras

Schönleinstrasse 5
January 19–March 10, 2018

Louis-Philippe Scoufaras’s “Trilogy of Terror,” 2014–16, consists of single-shot videos, each ninety minutes in length, that stage confoundingly prolonged meditations on events from ancient mythology. The title of Omphalos, 2016, the final part and the subject of this exhibition, is rife with symbolic meaning; in ancient Greek, it means “navel,” the center of the world; an object or a place with great power.

To rule over the earth, King Cronus first had to castrate and murder his father, Uranus. Later, Cronus would eat his own children in order to avoid a similar fate. Scoufaras’s distillation of the myth was staged in front of the Walhalla, erected in Bavaria in the early nineteenth century as a replica of the Parthenon in Athens, one of the premiere architectural articulations of German national identity. Filmed in slow motion on a snowy night, set to an eerie soundscape that is an elongated version of the Saturn movement in Gustav Holst’s orchestral suite The Planets (1916), the king (played by Arthur Gillet, who performs in all three works of the trilogy) descends the stairs of the Walhalla with a baby in his arms. He consumes the child upon reaching the bottom then returns up the steps before disappearing into the darkness.

The intensity of Scoufaras’s cinematic repositing of the myth is paralleled in the second piece of the exhibition: the marble sculpture Omphalos, 2017, its human features whitewashed by the purity of its smooth stone presence.