Internationally renowned Greek artist Danae Stratou’s latest work in Western Australia explores the underground streams of the land as it asks us to contemplate the interconnectedness of our planet and its consciousness.
Stratou’s Water Traces opens on November 19, runs to December 17, and explores the underground streams at The Farm Margaret River site in what she describes as a giant x-ray of the land.
The exhibition has been three years in the making after the Greek artist applied back in 2020 to The Farm Margaret River’s open call for the funded Art Residency, which affords one artist a year eight weeks to live at The Farm and create a site-specific land art project.
“I was fortunate to be the selected artist of that year, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was only now that I could come and work on the project,” Stratou told Neos Kosmos.
Land art, the artist explained, is a form in which nature is the canvas.
“Land art projects are always site-specific and are created in-site (as opposed to work made in a studio and then transported to some site). Land artists use materials from the earth: soil, rocks, water, and vegetation.”
This emerged in the 1960s/70s (mainly in the U.S. but also in the U.K.) as a response to the rapid commercialisation of art, with many opting to get out of the studios and embrace natural environments.
Stratou’s project Water Traces is an example of land art wherein she aimed to make the invisible visible,”It is a site-responsive land art project inspired by underground streams which, like veins coursing beneath the earth’s skin, flow silently underneath our feet,” she said.
“In a gesture of acknowledgment of people who contemplate the interconnectedness of our planet and its consciousness, the work invites viewers to participate.”
The artwork involves gently carved paths through the pasture, which unveil the soil underneath, allowing the land to breathe and revealing the subtle network of waterways beneath the surface.She achieved this through ancient divination techniques, particularly water divining, which was recommended by The Farm’s co-founder, Darryl Mack.
“I started researching this ancient practice and realised it has been used in many cultures worldwide. I invited Mike Hartnett, a wise old man who has been practising water divining for more than 40 years and had many stories to tell,” Stratou said.
“He showed me how this works by using a Willow stick. I continued working with him and a few more people connected to the farm who have the gift of diving, and so they were able to help me map these underground creek lines.”
Enlisting a team of local experts, including water diviners, geologists, and Wadandi traditional owners, the Greek artist mapped 19 underground water streams to unveil a journey from The Farm’s 31 Hectare property extending 5.6 km.Ms Stratou stated that the work comprises a soundscape, a live map and eight steel markers adorned with three coordinates: where you stand, the location in which the stream exits the coast, and the water’s ultimate destination.
“These markers serve as anchors, grounding and eternalising the ephemeral artwork in the physical landscape,” she said.
“As one walks these pathways following the map, one may listen for the lively murmurs of creek lines, the nocturnal whispers of creatures dwelling in the serene waters, and voice blending by Wadandi custodian Mitchella Hutchins.”
Visitors are invited to navigate this immersive artwork via the designated website water-traces.org by downloading the QR code found on the markers on their smartphones.
Stratou said that land and water were her two essential elements in this work. She sought to respect the land in the ancestral country of the Wadandi people, a cultural group of the Noongar nation who have lived on and from this land, the rivers that run through it and the ocean it meets in harmony for tens of thousands of years. The soundscape uses birdsongs and the sound of water at the site, adding it as an audio guide for the artwork.
“I started recording them early on during my visit, including the various water sounds on the Farm and beyond streams, rivers, the Ocean itself, where all the water streams finally merge,” the artist said.
“Inspired by these recordings, I began to piece together the work’s soundscape.
“The idea was to blend these natural sounds with songs or stories told to me by the local Aboriginal people who know this land intimately – once I successfully gained their trust.”
Stratou described the overall project as a “profound, deep and rich experience” wherein she became attuned to the land, understanding its history about the natural environment and the people who inhabited it.She credited the people of The Farm Margaret River for their support, acknowledging that many others also aided her immensely during the endeavour.
The artist has visited Australia many times in the last 18 years, which she believes helped her handle this two-month residency, which she admitted was splendid, albeit difficult.
“Learning to live in relative solitude in the middle of a farm, for weeks on end, was a challenge,” she said.
“I think the fact that I do have ties to Australia, having visited and spent time in the country repeatedly in the last 18 years, helped enormously in equipping me with the capacity to bond with the land and to respond to it through my artistic practice.”
Further information on the artwork can be found at https://www.water-traces.org/The exhibition is free but requires an appointment via email at email@example.com.