Virtual Omphalos

Commissioned for the XXIII International Bienal de Sao Paulo, Virtual Omphalos addresses the potential impact of internet communication on Caribbean identity using an Amerindian creation myth as a symbolic springboard. The viewer enters a large octagonal-shaped space and becomes immersed in an uterine universe, a virtual reality, with dissolving slide projections of the ocean as art washes up upon the shore surrounding them on every wall. Under the transparency of the moving water, wrapped (cocooned) plaster figurines / funerary dolls symbolizing the Caribbean's Amerindian, African, and European heritage appear and disappear to suggest the washing away of the past. The participant steps into this reality and becomes part of it. Their multiple shadows are projected onto the walls; they are blinded by the brightness of the light. Above and within reach, a virtual web is strung. In the centre of the space, a yellow light bulb is suspended from above on a copper wire. Simultaneously, words and sounds 'echo' from within the sound of the ocean - the words of the poem Virtual Omphalos (overlapping in 'no-sense'; in sound bites. On the cement floor, sand and gravel form a visual echo of the web above (the maze) and continue the idea of the ebb and flow of water, of feminine energy. The installation proposes the Caribbean Sea as the womb of possibility between the Americas and the island as the navel of the Earth, or 'omphalos'. In a world approaching the new millennium, the island, through the World Wide Web, can take an equal place in the global village. Time and space no longer have relevance. Marshall McLuhan's vision of a shrinking, decentralized world and its effect upon Man's values and perceptions is invoked.

View Bienal Catalogue HERE


Multimedia Visuals & Programming: Robert Davis

Sound recording: Robert Davis

Voice: Howaida Moussa

Script: Joscelyn Gardner

This project was made possible with funding from KODAK (A.S.Bryden's & Sons Ltd.) and the National Cultural Foundation, Barbados. Assistance for the project was also provided by Barclays Bank PLC, the Barbados Investment & Development Corporation, Caribnet, and COT Printery Ltd.

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