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The Myth of Acteon

ὁρᾷς τὸν Ἀκτέωνος ἄθλιον μόρον,

ὃν ὠμόσιτοι σκύλακες ἃς ἐθρέψατο

διεσπάσαντο, κρείσσον’ ἐν κυναγίαις

Ἀρτέμιδος εἶναι κομπάσαντ’, ἐν ὀργάσιν.

(Look at Actaeon’s wretched fate

who by the man-eating hounds he had raised,

was torn apart, better at hunting

than Artemis he had boasted to be, in the meadows.)

The unalterable fact on Acteon’s myth is a hunter’s transformation into a deer and his death in the jaws of his hunting dogs. According to Callimachus, Artemis was bathing in the woods when the hunter Actaeon stumbled across her, thus seeing her naked. He stopped and stared, amazed at her ravishing beauty. Once seen, Artemis got revenge on Actaeon and forbade him to speak — if he tried he would be changed into a deer — for profaning her virginity’s mystery. Upon hearing the call of his hunting party, he cried out and immediately was changed into a stag. He fled deep into the woods, and doing so he came upon a pond and, seeing his reflection, groaned. His own hounds couldn’t recognize him with his new shape and turned upon him and tore him to pieces.

Actaeon is thought by many to symbolize ritual human sacrifice in attempt to please a God or Goddess. The dogs symbolize the sacrificers and Actaeon symbolizes the sacrifice. I first linked Acteon’s myth to art thanks to a book by Octavio Paz that changed my life on 2008. Several years later I bought the book again just to search it to find Paz’s metaphor between the figure of the artist and Acteon. This time I thought it was one of the most conservative books I had ever read and toss it away.

In relation to the hunter-hunted transmutation, I believe every emerging artist from the 21st century should focus on achieving it. According to Paz, every artist needs to shift from an observer to an observed figure. However, I believe Paz omitted a decisive fact. In order to complete the circle, the deer needs to be not only devoured, but unrecognized by the hunting dogs. That’s what I believe all the artists emerging on the 21st century should do: to be unrecognized and devoured by it’s watchers (at least the ones we’re aiming towards “changing” something).


The biggest myth in art is that creativity is something exclusive for artists. Since the french Academia, the art world had educated mankind to judge its works as something good if they can’t make it, and as something bad if they can. Artists deny they copy because they fear to be misjudge or unoriginal, when in fact, every artist on earth has copied another. And most important, we’ve all seen objects or works that are what we wanted to do (Actually that was the moment when we decided to become artists). So automatically people outside the art world considers themselves inferiors. They believe they can’t paint, experiment with space, sculpt, draw, take photos, etc, because what they do does not look like Helmut Newton’s or Rembrandt’s creations on the very first time they tried to make them (it’s pretty obvious for artists that this is impossible to happen, but actually our public believes that it does happen).

Basically our function on this planet has been reduced to make its population think they’re dumb. If someone had an idea before you, then it’s unoriginal, hence useless. People believe they do not have the right to create because they’re not good enough. They’ve grown hearing that their ideas do not matter in culture, because everything they like and understand is junk culture and needs to be forgotten. Things like football, pop music, Vanity Fair, Playboy, GQ, Cosmopolitan, or Vogue. This is actually quite funny, cause Alfred H. Barr always taught about art and culture using those magazines, and this was by the time the MoMA opened! And remember, it was MODERN art! So why do we keep anchors an still rely on the french academia after more than two hundred years?

Actaeon also may symbolize human curiosity or irreverence, and that’s why I’ve chose it’s figure for this text. There’s another enormous myth around art: A work of art can change the world. I do not understand how some people buy this shit. Artists won’t change a thing as long as they exist as a separate class. Artists and their helpers are the nobility of culture; we’re no different from Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, living the golden age inside galleries, museums, and even at “independent” spaces. The only way in which art can change the world is if it’s executed collectively by mankind. The question is, will artists finally let go art? or will we keep it in our hands for another two hundred years? I believe the art world won’t let go. That’s why I hope the world to guillotine us, and I’m definitely doing everything in my power for that to happen.

A.C. <alonso@prizon.mx>

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