The London based international artist Michael Petry has been invited to make works at the Palácio dos Duques de Cadaval in Portugal. The installation which is currently on view, evokes the winery tradition of Alentejo associated with the symbolism of the bowl as an object used to carry offerings. Often portrayed in tales of heroes, libation bowls are associated with ancient Greek gods. Libation bowls were made from terracotta, glass, onyx, bronze, silver, and gold and in the 6th century B.C. were called phialai. Petry’s Libation to Apollo features a huge one meter circular porcelain dish (made to Petry’s design in Jingdezhen, China) which has been glazed with 24k gold. The work, like a large sun can be exhibited on the wall or as here, filled with local red wine as a libation to Apollo. Apollo, the classical god of light, the arts and order contrasts with his opposite, Dionysus, god of wine, ecstasy and chaos. Classical homes needed alters to both gods in order to keep a balance of cosmic powers. The giving of a libation, something that cannot be taken back, had great significance for ancient peoples. Ritual giving continues today in most religions in some form or other.
The Palace sits in front of a Roman temple devoted to the Goddess Diana, the huntress. Petry has made a large wall libation to her covered in gold leaf. At the opening event, he performed his Libation to Eros, firing 54 black into one of the Palace walls lined with locally grown cork, while declaiming the story of the god. The result is the installation depicted here. Petry wanted viewers of the performance to experience up close the power of an arrow piercing the flesh of a wall. For classical peoples, the notion of being struck by Eros’ arrow was a life and death event. Eros was always depicted as a virile male youth, unlike the Roman version of the God, Cupid, who is depicted as a baby. Modern viewers often forget that love, then as now, is a life changing event.
“The Triennial in Alentejo is an initiative that aims to endow Alentejo with an event of global significance by presenting the work of international contemporary artists within the unique facts of the region. Inspired by the natural, human, historic and cultural heritage, the artistic projects are conceived as site specific in the scope of the Triennial in Alentejo based on the uniqueness of each venue (wineries, farms, churches and museums.”