If Not Apollo, the Breeze
Etel Adnan, Larry Bell, Mary Helena Clark, Trisha Donnelly, Terry Fox, Matthew Angelo Harrison, Tony Labat, Pope.L, Sturtevant, San Francisco Oracle (Allen Cohen, ed.)
Long ago, they say, a goat discovered the oracle.
High on the hill at Delphi, an ancient herder lost one in his flock to a crack in the earth. Safely retrieved, the animal began exhibiting strange and erratic behavior—making unfamiliar sounds, leaping wildly, refusing to eat. The herder himself descended, where a mysterious vapor afforded him vision into the future. The location became quite popular. After a number of excited citizens took the leap and died from overexposure, the community chose a single young woman to inhale the smoke, eventually understood as the spirit of the great god Apollo. A temple was built, where her ravings were translated by priests into elegant hexameters.
A booming industry developed around the oracle. City-states built treasuries and presented the finest statues, paintings, and tapestries to curry favor with the divine. The inner sanctum of Apollo’s temple was recognized as the navel of the world, and no major decision was entered into, no war waged, without consultation of its oracle. Prognostications, however, were remarkably hard to parse, often taking the form of riddles that were brought to fruition despite an individual’s best efforts to outrun them. In this way, the oracle revealed less of an explicit future than an invitation to unravel its connection with the present.
If Not Apollo, the Breeze takes the literary history of the ancient oracle at Delphi as its starting point to explore the irrational, ambiguous, infallible, portentous, performative, hallucinatory, and predictive. Like the oracle itself, the exhibition presents a series of coded messages that address a future that is both hard to discern and right under our feet, like a road. Nine artists and one underground newspaper are included.