Category Archives: Water

‘Desert Breath’: A Spiral of Infinity by Arteam

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Desert Breath is a huge, stunning piece of spiral Land Art located at El Gouna, Egypt, where the immensity of the Red Sea meets that of the eastern Sahara desert. It was created in 1997 by a collective called D.A.ST. Arteam, whose members include installation artist Danae Stratou, industrial designer Alexandra Stratou and architect Stella Constantinides. The land art, breathtaking in its vision and scope, was intended as an exploration of infinity: ‘The project is rooted in our common desire to work in the desert. In our mind’s eye the desert was a place where one experiences infinity. We were addressing the desert as a state of mind, a landscape of the mind’ (Stratou 1998).

The spiral of Desert Breath covers an area of 100,000 square metres. In creating it, 8000 cubic metres of sand were displaced to create 89 positive and 89 negative cones of sand which become increasingly larger the further away they are from the centre. The 89 cones and 89 matching depressions spiral out from one another in two geometrically precise arms that increase in diameter progressively. In the centre is a 30m diameter vessel filled to the brim with water. The spiral is logarithmic – that is, one generated through an equation (though such spirals, also called miracle spirals, occur in nature).

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The work can be explored in two ways: as a visual image from a vantage point on a hill, and from the ground, walking the spiral pathway as a physical experience. From the vantage point, the shape of the spiral reveals itself fully, imagined by the artists as a kind of ‘breath’ in the desert. From the ground, the viewer walks from the outside inwards. At the outermost point, the sand cones are twice the height of a person and have a diameter of 15m, but walking towards the centre, they successively diminish in scale, though this happens so gradually the viewer often doesn’t notice. At some point, the viewer realises they are now about the same height as the cone, engendering the curious, almost Alice in Wonderland, sensation that they have shifted in scale, grown larger as they walk.

Numerous small-scale experimental models were initially made by Arteam in Greece before the piece was finally constructed in Egypt. The actual work was undertaken by a large Egyptian construction company, supervised by Arteam.

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Made in 1997, Desert Breath still exists, slowly disintegrating, so an instrument to register the passage of time. It can be seen on Google Earth at coordinates 27°22’54.59″N, 33°37’48.46″E. A video of the artwork and its construction can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZbTWE5XWoU

 

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Filed under Art, Arts, contemporary art, Earth, Environmentalism, imagination, installation art, Myth, natural world, Nature, Photography, public art, the sea, Uncategorized, Water

February Oodlings and Doodlings

February Oodlings and doodlings: or some things I did and pondered in February (which may or may not be true…)

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‘All Tied Up’

I saw a cloud in the form of a giant sky-turtle. I wondered about a dystopian world in which clouds are used as advertising billboards. I tweeted about imaginary essays by Jorge Luis Borges and about graveyards of red telephone boxes. I watched two mesmerising foreign documentaries, Nostalgia for the Light, and Le Quattro Volte, and wrote a song inspired by the former. I ate far too much chocolate, albeit dark, 85% organic. I sat by the river one night and spoke to a huge, gold-glowing magic fish in the water.

I celebrated writer Russell Hoban’s birthday on February 4th by putting quotes by him up around the village green and by the river. I listened to blue-tit and collared dove song each morning and wondered if birds sing in their dreams. I took photographs of knots and chains by the river’s edge and of silhouettes on a jetty; and I took a video of feet walking along a jetty. I had some funny conversations with a punning cat. I wrote most of a short story. I decided, in a pretentious moment, that reflections in windows at night intimate the real, slippery, multi-dimensional nature of reality far more than the clear light of day does. I rediscovered the beauty and eccentricity of singer-songwriter Regina Spektor.

I had an email correspondence with a friend about Keats’s art of negative capability, the ability to live with doubt, uncertainty and mystery – I concluded that I was aspirant but wanting in this respect. I spent quite a bit of the month in a bad relapse of the chronic illness I have, in significant amounts of pain, but congratulated myself on handling it with a degree of stoicism. I read an impressive surreal novel, Liquidambar, by the New Zealand writer Chris Bell. I had fish and chips at the end of a glistening road with my mother. I got angry yet again with the government for their treatment of the poor and sick, for their policies of austerity that are plunging the poor into greater poverty even as the rich stock up their coffers. I fell in love with life whilst watching the charming, gentle video of the Kings of Convenience’s I’d Rather Dance Than Talk with You.

(Note I got this summary-of-month idea from another blog I sometimes visit, tho that blog only does real events)

Cloud in the Form of a Giant Sky-Turtle?

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The Colour of Water

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I’m not sure why exactly, but I like to sit by my local river and try to name the various colours on its surface – pewter, grey-blue, cup-of-tea brown, slate grey, silver, sand, diamond glint, eucalyptus-leaf green. Just as the tidal river ebbs and flows, so the colours in it are constantly changing. Perhaps this is part of the appeal for me: an awareness of a visual transience, of an ever-mutable liquid canvas. The hues relate to the quality of light and to what is reflected in the water – sky, clouds, sun, trees, boats, houses, lampposts, passing people. In these particular photographs the colours and abstract forms put me in mind of pre-Hispanic textiles. Certain pre-Hispanic peoples believed that rivers and lakes were mirrors in which the gods could behold themselves. If there happened to be any pre-Hispanic deities loitering around this corner of East Anglia (UK) that day, I like to think they’d have been chuffed that their fabrics, if not their faces, featured in the river, even if for a brief time.

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