Exhibitions , San Francisco

If Not Apollo, the Breeze

If Not Apollo, the Breeze
October 11–December 16, 2017

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 a charge 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, suddenly stunned by a mysterious vapor permitting 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 sit atop a designated tripod and inhale the fumes, eventually understood as the spirit of the great god Apollo. A temple was built, where her ravings were translated for paying customers by a network of priests, sometimes into elegant hexameters.

A booming industry sprouted at Delphi. City-states built exceptionally crafted treasuries and presented the finest statues, paintings, and tapestries to curry favor with the divine. The path to Apollo’s temple was known as the Sacred Way, a mandatory passage through which pilgrims attempted to decipher a complex iconography of language and symbols—billboards, really, for assorted kingdoms and coinage. Delphi 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, could be 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 offered less an explicit revelation of the future than an invitation to unravel its connection with the present.

If Not Apollo, the Breeze takes the ancient literary history of the 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.