Towards Omega | Darn Thorn

23 Mar – 06 Apr 2017


Towards Omega is a new experimental work by Darn Thorn. Using Studio 12 as a test space, this installation piece creates a shrine of sorts to the utopian ideas of the modernist French palaeontologist and mystic Teilhard De Chardin (1881-1955).

De Chardin’s books have often been described as unreadable in that they detail an exuberant but esoteric combination of philosophical idealism and abstract metaphysics[1]. They propose an idealist philosophical position without the existential subjectivism proposed by its Enlightenment-era exponents (Kierkegaard, Kant). De Chardin’s work also proposes an odd merger between phenomenology and the natural sciences, where he proposed that all matter was in a process of evolution into spirit. For Teilhard the culmination of this evolution would be the creation of divine consciousness eliminating all need for a material world and occurring in a future ‘Omega Point’.

As Jesuit priest De Chardin fell foul of the Catholic Church who exiled him to China in the 1920’s then posthumously warned against his works in 1962.[2] Despite his work as a Palaeontologist, his ersatz approach to science and philosophy left many to doubt the veracity of his assertions. Reviewing his work for the philosophical journal Mind in 1961, British Nobel Prize winning biologist and author P. B. Medawar took Teilhard to task, declaring that “The Phenomenon of Man cannot be read without a feeling of suffocation, a gasping and flailing around for sense.“[3]

Parallel to his theories, the installation Towards Omega also draws inspiration from De Chardin’s association with the infamous Piltdown man hoax. ‘Discovered’ by amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson in 1912, the human-like ‘bones’ found at Piltdown (U.K.) we purportedly evidence of an evolutionary missing link. Joined at the site by Arthur Smith Woodward of the British Museum and De Chardin, their work ‘unearthed’ a significant portion of the ‘skull’ of this ape human hybrid. Revealed in 1953 to be a hoax, its details were chronicled by the J.S. Weiner of the Royal Anthropological Institute.[4]

Towards Omega reflects on the work of De Chardin by responding with humour to his esoteric concepts. The artwork considers the unusual influence of Teilhard’s writings on both a generation of Catholic theologians during the 1960 and 70’s and also the radical post-war architecture of Le Corbusier (1887-1965).[5] [6] For this reason the installation takes its aesthetic cues from this era, combining references to the ascetic minimalism of 1960’s ecclesial architecture and a nod to the gaudy Science Fiction and Horror cinema of the same era. By referencing the pseudo-profound melodrama of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and the stylised lighting of Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977), the installation is playful and theatrical. In it, a section of the gallery is demarcated by black curtaining and the space within illuminated using computer controlled LED lighting. Washed in acid colour we encounter an ornamental glass block etched with a 3D rendering of Piltdown Man, seemingly held for our veneration in a state of suspended animation. In this sense the work operates as a shrine of sorts to the ideas of De Chardin and a place where the viewer can engage in phenomenological encounter with their fictitious protohuman ancestor.

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Promotional video: Towards Omega

[1] De Chardin’s most well known works are:
The Phenomenon of Man, Les Éditions du Seuil, Paris, 1955

The Divine Milieu Les Éditions du Seuil, Paris, 1957

[2] Published in the Vatican’s official newspaper: 
L’Osservatore Romano, July 1, 1962, p.1

[3] P. B. Medawar, “The Phenomenon of Man” (Review), Mind, Volume 70, Issue 277, 1 January 1961, Pages 99–106

[4] Weiner, J.S. The Piltdown Forgery, Oxford University Press, 1955

[5] Henri de Lubac, “Teilhard and the Problems of Today.” in The Eternal Feminine: A Study on the Text of Teilhard de Chardin, Harper and Row, London, 1971, p.186

[6] Flora Samuel “Le Corbusier, Teilhard de Chardin and The Planetisation of Mankind.” The Journal of Architecture, Vol 4, Issue 2, 2010, 149-165

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