Omphalos is a collection of objects, drawings, writing and sculptural works made for the duo show Floating on the surface of knowledge with Rebecca Halliwell Sutton.
Islington Mill, Manchester July 2018
Omphalos meditates upon how we project meaning onto objects and how they can help us to process the passage of time and thus help us to structure our memories, history and beliefs. In this exhibition, I brought together an accumulation of objects; a rock taken from the Djoser pyramid in Egypt and a paving stone from Pompeii - both of which were stolen on a school trip in 1973; fragments of bone from my great grandfather's knee (which were taken out after being shot in Gallipoli), my own wisdom tooth, and ceramic objects which infer my own body.
My text drawings map the the concentric histories of the objects, of the people and places the they belonged to and the stories told about them. The objects are anchored to both personal and public histories, oscillating between different points in time.
The word Omphalos is the ancient greek word for navel. It is an ancient stone sculpture which supposedly marks the central point of the world, and appears in many different ancient cultures. The most famous Omphalos stone is at the Delphi in the valley of Phocis. The stone sculpture, which may be a copy, has a carving of a knotted net covering its surface, and a hollow center, which widens towards the base.
‘Omphalos: an attempt to untie the geological knot’ was a book written by the english naturalist Philip Gosse (1810 -1888). And was an attempt to reconcile the scientific evidence that the universe is billions of years old with the Genesis creation narrative, which proposes that the Earth is only a few thousand years old. He argued that fossils record is not evidence of evolution, but an act of God so that the world would appear much older than it is.
The theory presented in the book has since been coined the ‘Omphalos Hypothesis’. This is a philosophical hypothesis that infers that the world and everything in it could have been created at any time, even yesterday, with our own memories having been put there as false indications of age. It reasons that the present is indefinite, that the future has no reality other than as a present hope, the past none other than present memory.
Scientifically, Gosse’s book was widely discredited, but I admire his determination in very publicly describing a kind of personal mythology, a personalised belief system constructed from opposing ideas. In many ways Gosse merely reveals the internal contradictions that inevitably exist within the human mind. Our thoughts are made up of fragments - of memories, stories, fact and fiction; all of which come together to form the ideas and fantasies that structure our internal lives.