D.A.ST. Arteam’s Desert Breath (1997) is not clay but it is of the earth, so it’s close enough. This piece of land art in the eastern Sahara Desert has the look of terracotta but by design the piece is ephemeral, temporary despite its enormous size of 1 million square feet. Even more impressive is that this piece made out of nothing more than displaced sand is still visible some 17 years after it was finished.
Desert Breath is made of two interlocking spirals. One spiral is conical piles of sand while the other spiral is the inverse, conical depressions of sand. When it was complete, the spirals shared a common center with a circular pool of water, but that water has since dried out, according to NDTV news. Don’t feel bad that the water’s gone, though, that’s just showing you that the art piece is (slowly) going according to plan. Team member Danae Stratou, said D.A.S.T. created the piece to explore the concepts of infinity and the passage of time.
“In our mind’s eye the desert was a place where one experiences infinity,” Stratou states. “We were addressing the desert as a state of mind, a landscape of the mind… Desert Breath still exists becoming through its slow disintegration, an instrument to measure the passage of time.”
One way to visit the piece is online. Desert Breath is a prominent feature on Google Earth (how many pieces of art can say that?). Stratou also suggests experiencing the piece by walking a path along the spirals, which we at CFile recognize is similar to the meditative process of walking through a labyrinth. It will be a bit of an adventure to do this, though, as Stratou explains:
“Here are some initial tips: The best way to experience Desert Breath would be for visitors to go from el Gouna, (Egypt) or from the main highway and to cross towards the mountain so as to get to the Oasis which is on the foot of the mountain just behind Desert Breath. From there it is possible to hire horses or camels and ask the Beduins who are at the Oasis and own the horses, (by the way they also make wonderful tea which they offer at the tent), to guide them to Desert Breath. Once you get to the see the cones you can approach and start to follow the spiral pathways by first following either the inverted (negative cones) or the protruding (positive ones) from largest to smallest towards the centre and then outwards again following the other spiral from smallest to largest. This whole journey from Oasis to D.B. and back probably takes about an hour or so in total.”
Stratou also suggests people contact her through her web site if they wish to visit this piece which is both substance and void.
Bill Rodgers is a Contributing Editor at CFile.
Above image: D.A.S.T. Arteam, Desert Breath, 1997. Photograph courtesy of the artists.
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