My Half of the Sky, My Half of the Earth was specially commissioned for the Art Wall by the Onassis Foundation USA in conjunction with the exhibition Gods and Mortals at Olympus: Ancient Dion, City of Zeus.
Art Wall Viewing Schedule
8:15am-3:00pm My Half of the Sky, My Half of the Earth plays once every hour on the first quarter of the hour.
3:00pm-10:00pm My Half of the Sky, My Half of the Earth plays on a continuous loop.
Runtime is approximately 7 ½ minutes long
Review by Cathryn Drake
In Maria Zervos’s video My Half of the Sky, My Half of the Earth, a silent chorus of concerned Olympians emerges from the forest onto the plateau of the Muses to join their errant mother before the austere crest of Mount Olympus, mythical site of the god-king’s throne. These gods who fell to earth look alien in the pristine Greek landscape, and as nonplussed as Adam and Eve after their fall from grace. The artist casts herself as the exiled Mother of the Gods, who has been implored by Zeus to return home from the mortal realm before she is lost forever in the wilderness and devoured by its beasts. Confronted with the choice between savage exile on earth and celestial reign, she is as ambivalent as her divine companions are androgynous.
The narrative is from a lyric poem by Telesilla, who in 494 BC armed the women of Argos to repel the Spartans, for whom it was taboo to attack the opposite sex. In Plutarch’s day the victory was still celebrated in an annual festival where men and women cross-dressed, and Telesilla was immortalized in statues portraying her as a divinity. In her verse the Mother of the Gods declares to Zeus: “Only when I have these will I go: my half of the sky, my half of the earth, and a portion of the sea.” In spite of his attempts to intimidate her with raging thunderbolts, she dares to ask—not for reinstatement of matriarchal rule— merely for equality. On earth, after all, the mother-goddess is attended by a cult of orgiastic devotees and frenzied dancers, musicians banging drums and clanging cymbals.
You see, the war between the sexes began with the creation of the cosmos, at the very inception of nature. In Greek mythology the union of sky and earth is an enactment of the divine marriage, and the perennial conflict between the genders embodies the archetypal dualities of rationality and instinct, power and nurture. Our goddess is asking for integration of these polarities, within the universe and the human psyche. Dressed in lurid body suits—perching on river rocks, performing a ritual dance in the mountain mist, and embracing in sculptural compositions—the asexual young deities resemble models in a fashion advertisement. Perhaps foretelling such a fusion, this contemporary twist revives the mythological narrative in the here and now.
According to Zervos’s introductory poem, we are all lost gods. “The Mountain’s Furthest Top” describes the sensation of reaching the top, whereupon its awesome dimensions dematerialize from sight and memory, as if only an illusion. Contemporary life is like that: approaching the heights of technological capability, we have lost our bearings in a realm of virtual social connections and realities. The mountain has always been there, yet we cannot see it because we have surpassed the summit. In the shadow of Mount Olympus, our gods and goddesses finally gather together in a graceful pose atop a bridge, evoking both a classical temple pediment and the ecstatic transcendence of collective empowerment.
CATHRYN DRAKE is a freelance writer on art, architecture, and travel for publications such as Artforum, Metropolis, and the Wall Street Journal.