Like veins coursing beneath the earth's skin, the silent water beneath our feet flows without asking for recognition. In a gesture of acknowledgment, Stratou invites her audience to contemplate the interconnectedness of our planet and its consciousness.
In a continuous journey of healing, the ephemeral artwork delicately connects with the earth, gently carving paths through the pasture, unveiling the soil beneath. This intricate process not only allows the land to breathe but also reveals the subtle network of waterways beneath the surface. Discovering nineteen underground water streams by using ancient divination techniques, Stratou unveils the journey that begins to unfold from The Farm Margaret River’s 31 hectare property extending 5.6 km. Beyond The Farm Margaret River, streams commence their life giving journey, meandering through larger converging streams before intertwining with the vast currents of the ocean. Seamlessly integrated into the broader global circulation, they may find their conclusion in the distant realms of South Africa or Antarctica, vistas contemplated from the serene South Point in Gracetown.
Within this immersive experience, discover eight markers adorned with three coordinates: where you stand, the location in which the stream exits the coast, and the waters ultimate destination. These markers serve as anchors, grounding and eternalising the ephemeral artwork in the physical landscape. As you walk these pathways, listen for the lively murmurs of creek lines, the nocturnal whispers of creatures dwelling in the serene waters, and voice blending by Wardandi custodian Mitchella Hutchins. Notice the undulating flora, and consider the extended tree roots embodying the life force below… Take a moment to witness the invisible.
For more information about Water Traces, visit the website - here.
Tracing the invisible: Danae Stratou’s intricate mapping of underground waterways
A reflection by Rosamund Brennan
It’s an affliction of modern humanity, our propensity to detach ourselves from the natural world. We drift through our days on autopilot, oblivious to the primordial forces that hum and pulsate around us: the interplay of the moon and the tides, the whispered dialogues of trees, and the web of underground waterways that nourish and sustain life; many of them invisible to the human eye.
A victim of our increasingly anthropocentric worldview, many of nature’s gentle rhythms are buried beneath our cities and relegated to the fringes of our consciousness. But in truth, these natural processes are rooted in our very survival; perhaps none more so than the flow of water — that life-giving elixir which ripples through our bodies and binds us to every other living organism on the planet.
It is this vital life force that Greek artist Danae Stratou brings to the surface so powerfully in Water Traces, a site-specific installation which seeks to “make the invisible visible”, mapping more than 5 kilometres of subterranean waterways coursing through the grassy sheath of land at The Farm Margaret River, like the arteries of the earth.
An internationally renowned artist whose large-scale installations have taken her from the Sahara Desert to the Amazon River, Danae’s practice is deeply connected and responsive to the natural world. When she arrived at The Farm for her eight-week residency, her first time in Western Australia, the artist described being enveloped in a symphony of nature that was totally foreign to her European ear.
“My brain was sparkling,” she says. “There were all these amazing, fascinating sounds. I felt that there was something about this land, that there were many things happening underground and a lot of water moving in ways I wanted to understand.”
Danae enlisted a team of local experts including water diviners, geologists and Wadandi traditional owners to help map out 19 tributaries criss-crossing the property and meandering towards the Indian Ocean. They discovered that all the waterways ran down to Ellensbrook Beach in Margaret River, and from there joined the ocean currents flowing out to Antarctica and Africa.
“The point of mapping these coordinates was to connect the water here in Margaret River with the rest of the world,” Danae explains. “It is part of something much bigger; the whole world is one interconnected organism.”
A multifaceted installation, Water Traces offers a living, breathing cartography of the land, with delicate lines of upturned earth indicating the passageway of the water below, along with an audio guide and signposts bearing the coordinates of the water’s trajectory out to sea. Visitors are invited to walk the length of these traces, which Danae describes as a “giant x-ray of the land”, opening up their imaginations to the vast waterworld that lies beneath.
The experience is heightened by the audio guide, which features a mesmerising soundscape of rushing streams and crashing waves, captured by Danae throughout her residency, and interspersed with local Wadandi woman Mitchella Hutchins speaking about her family’s connection to water.
In keeping with Danae’s career-long engagement with socio-political issues, Water Traces not only speaks to humanity’s disconnection from nature, but its continued destruction of it.
“Globally, our climate crisis manifests itself precisely in the steady depletion of underground and overground streams of fresh water,” she says. “Making the invisible water streams visible, and giving voice to the Indigenous people who know how to nurture them, could not be more of a political priority than it is now.”
Immersing visitors in the sounds and sights of groundwater as it makes its sinuous journey out to sea, Water Traces gently asks us to look both down and inwards — to appreciate the magic of the world beneath our feet, and our innate reciprocity with the earth’s ecosystem.
“I hope my work can open up a new window in the mind, to bring to light what is there but is not always seen with our eyes,” Danae says. “Not in a didactic way, but through the poetry of art.”
As soon as I arrived at The Farm, I started walking the grounds and exploring the Margaret River area and coastline. The Farm itself struck me for its concave shape, its location relative to the higher grounds all around, and the feeling it emanated as a vessel, a bowl. Immediately, I sensed the presence of water, not only the visible bodies of water in The Farm – the spring, the stream, the dam – but the invisible streams flowing under The Farm’s surface. The thought of these streams merging into rivers, subterranean and overland, was a joyous one that reached a crescendo as I imagined all this water flowing elegantly into the ocean.
Danae Stratou was born in Athens, Greece. She studied Fine Arts and specialised in sculpture and installation at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London (1983–1988). She taught as Adjunct Professor at the Post-Graduate Programme of the Athens School of Fine Arts (2007–2013). Her work consists of large-scale site-specific art installations and audio-visual environments. She uses a variety of media, ranging from digital and audio technology, video, photography to metal and natural materials and elements. Stratou uses a minimal, geometric visual language and engages in contemporary issues such as the climate crisis, migration, life in contemporary cities, population growth, our relation to the environment, as well as political and social tensions worldwide. Since 1997, she has been featured regularly in major solo and group exhibitions internationally.