[August 29 2019]
“In the beginning, there was a floating rock evolving between worlds, with no fixed location named A-δῆλος -meaning the “non visible”. When Leto, one of Zeus’ mortal lovers, gave birth to Artemis and Apollo, this island became Delos “the visible”, preserving the young gods from the wrath of the goddess Hera. In Ancient Greece, this 3.5 sq. km islet was for centuries one of the most sacred places, as well as an extremely prosperous and cosmopolitan Hellenistic centre.
In the VIth century BC, tyrants from Athens decided to seize power on Delos and to give it back its symbolic and mythologic power. During the “Purification of Delos”, they thus excavated the numerous tombs of the local inhabitants, and transported them in a pit on the neighbouring island of Rineia.
From now on, it was forbidden to be born and to die, on Delos.
Invited to feature 29 of his works on the island by the NEON initiative (https://neon.org.gr/en) in collaboration with the Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades, Anthony Gormley abides by the rule: five of the installations were commissioned for the site, assembled outside the island and now eternally integrated amongst Delos’s archaeological sites.
His sculptures, silent sentinels evoking human bodies, in full or in facets, resonate with the numerous, intertwined identities of Delos and reveal its complex topography.
Far from being a sterile juxtaposition of contemporary works with antique ruins, the exhibition curated by Iwona Blazwick (Whitechapel Gallery) and Elina Kountouri (NEON) projects us into a subtle reflexion upon the future of our own civilization. Thus, as we leave the island by boat, under a scorching sun, we can’t help but wondering whether 2000 years from now, Gormley site-specific sculptures will remain standing, and what they will tell about us.“
Photo and Text Paul Mouginot