Luis Buñuel’s film L’Âge d’Or ranks as the seminal Surrealist film, of fundamental importance for
that medium’s acceptance among the fine arts. The influence the film has exerted on contemporary
art―especially on more recent narrative tendencies―is inestimable. For the project The Sting of
the Scorpion initiated by the artist-duo M+M, the Museum Villa Stuck and the Institut
Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt have invited six artist-groups or individual artists to reinterpret the
The approach of the Surrealists included the aim of making film, a multimedia form of expression,
fruitful for the fine arts. In L’Âge d’Or (1930) Luis Buñuel used radical, partly scandalous means to
try and achieve a social impact―with a particular focus on an imaginatively expanded concept of
reality. These features are also characteristic of important positions in art today. Six contemporary
artists who use the medium of film will each respond to one of the six heterogeneous episodes in
that surrealist film, presenting it from their viewpoint.
The sequence of the film L’Âge d’Or adheres to the construction principle of an exquisite corpse
consisting of six individual loosely connected elements or scenes. In the first scene, Buñuel himself
underscores this compositional aspect of six narratives linked to form a whole by pointing to the six
parts of the scorpion’s tail and by particularly emphasizing the poisonous sting (“l’humeur
venimeuse”) at the end. Correspondingly, the film ends with the poisonously humorous final De-
The episodes of L’Âge d’Or each have different thematic and stylistic features, and these were decisive in choosing the artists to participate in the project. Tobias Zielony engages with the unfathomable quasi-documentary scorpion scene at the beginning of the film. The Australian-American music-artists group Chicks on Speed develop their version of how groups present themselves today as a modern equivalent to the film’s bandits scene, with Max Ernst playing the Surrealist leader of the gang. The duo M+M takes the film’s violent separation of the lovers as their point of departure for a mysterious nighttime odyssey, while the Israeli artist Keren Cytter transfers the feast in the mansion to a Texan saloon using a mixture of fatal violence and boredom. The Berlin artist Julian Rosefeldt presents the death of Buñuel’s hero Modot, only to then have him turn up, post mortem, in the Deep Gold nightclub. The project ends with John Bock’s variation of Buñuel’s De-Sade grotesque, with an unsettlingly obscene view of the Marquis’s orgiastic deathbed.
The Surrealists were one of the twentieth century’s most influential artist-groups and had great expectations of the genre of the film. In 1930, during the world economic crisis, film held out the promise of being an optimum mean of politically reorientating the group. From today’s point of view, both the thematic thrust and the strategies being tested in the making of the film seem decidedly up-to-date. The internationally renowned artists in the project have created an exhibition that is a Gesamtkunstwerk, uniting sculptural, performative, filmic and musical qualities. Against the backdrop of current social developments, what emerges both through the group dynamics and at the same time in a highly individual way is an experimental manifesto that once again puts the concept of the “Golden Age” to the test.