Alessandra Campoli, University of the Highlands and Islands, United Kingdom.
Myths are stories whose real subject lies elsewhere. In myths lie ancient symbols expressing philosophical and ethical meanings. The power of these symbols and meanings, which may have often long receded into subconsciousness, crosses time, space and cultures. Each generation and each culture not only interpret their meanings into those older symbols to which they are drawn by affinity but also create new symbols by using, modifying and transforming those of the past. There exists something like a spontaneous rediscovery or remembrance of the original meaning of mythological symbols. These last become then a potentially cross-generational and cross-cultural lexicon sinking its roots into shared cultural memory. Artists in the past have relied on the power of myth to visually speak to their audience, re-presenting myths in an illusionistic way, inviting the viewer to discover and construct meanings and relying on the subconscious memory that can connect people to mythological symbols and allegories and the meanings that they convey. Today art is not telling stories in a conventional way anymore and is disentangled from the need of mimesis. How has the relation between art and myth changed outside the framework of representational art? How do art and myth intersect today? What does motivate contemporary artists to take myths as subjects? Are mythological allegories in contemporary art still understood by the viewer? Is the universality inherent to myth able to communicate contemporary issues and tell recent stories? This paper aims to answer these questions, through the analysis of the work of relevant contemporary artists and primary and creative research. It also aims at fostering reflection upon the relationship between myth, visual symbols and recent histories, issues and debates in today’s creative environment.