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.