“Sing to me, Muse, of that infinitely cunning man...”
What makes Odysseus such a contemporary character even after 2,000 years? Why is the quality that Homer attributes to him (polytropos which loosely translates as “cunning” or “many-sided”) so evocative of questions that binds art and reason, creativity and ethics, freedom and conformity? Odysseus and the Bathers documents the 2018 eponymous exhibition by the acclaimed international artist Paul Chan at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, Greece. Inspired by the “polytropic” nature of Odysseus, Chan has created a body of work he calls “breathers”: kinetic sculptures that move unlike anything else in contemporary art. An essay by Chan explores the concept and history of polytropos and its relationship to what Marcel Duchamp called “the creative act.” This book also features an essay by curator Sam Thorne, a conversation between Nicholas Chr. Stampolidis, Director of the Museum of Cycladic Art, and Elina Kountouri, Director of NEON, on the notion of “polytropism”, and fragments by the pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides (5th century BCE), newly translated by classicist Alexandra Pappas, which illuminates how Odysseus’s “cunning” echoes traditions of thinking in ancient philosophy.