d.a.st. arteam

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ART: Desert Breath by Danae Stratou

Created by Greek artist Danae Stratou and the DAST art team in the mid-90s, this breathtaking land art installation is called “Desert Breath.” It covers 100,000 square meters in the Egyptian desert near the Red Sea, and took several years to create. At its center was a fairly deep pool of water, and the whole project was designed to slowly erode over time. 

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Desert Breath | Land Art project | by D.A.ST. Arteam | 1997

“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. The point of departure was the conical form, the natural formation of the sand as a material. 

Desert Breath expands in an area of 100.000 m2, in the eastern Sahara desert bordering the Red Sea in El Gouna, Egypt. It is a site-specific work that generated out of our perception of the site itself. Its construction consists of the displacement of 8.000 m3 of sand formed so as to create precise positive and negative conical volumes. The conical volumes form two interlocking spirals that move out from a common centre with a phase difference of 180o degrees in the same direction of rotation. The centre is a 30-metre diameter vessel formed in a W-shaped section and filled with water to its rim. 

Located between the sea and a body of mountains at the point where the immensity of the sea meets the immensity of the desert, the work functions on two different levels in terms of viewpoint: from above as a visual image, and from the ground, walking the spiral pathway, a physical experience.

The construction of Desert Breath was completed in March 1997. Desert Breath still exists becoming through its slow disintegration, an instrument to measure the passage of time." 

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Egyptian Desert Sand Spiral Spans Distance And Time

In the eastern Sahara desert bordering the Red Sea stands Desert Breath, a stunning land-art project comprised of perfectly-formed cones and a glistening pool of water. Nestled between the hills on the Egyptian desert floor, this site-specific installation was the work of D.A.ST. Arteam, made up of Danae Stratou (installation artist), Alexandra Stratou (industrial designer and architect), and Stella Constantindies (architect). They spent from 1995 to 1997 working on Desert Breath, relocating 8,000 square meters of sand to create what we see here. The curves of the two interlocking spirals are dotted with cones that create both positive and negative shapes, as some point up towards the sky while others extend below the surface. Everything radiates from its center, a vessel of water filled rim to rim. All told, this massive and impressive project covers 100,000 square meters (about 1 million square feet).

The terrain was the the driving force behind Desert Breath, and the three women formed D.A.ST. Arteam just for the execution of this project. Danae Stratou explains, “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.” You can view the installation in more than one way. From above, it forms a complete visual image where we can marvel at its design an execution. Or, if we’re lucky enough to experience it from the ground, it is a physical experience as you walk the pathway and come face to face with the larger-than-life cones.

Although it’s been 17 years since the project’s completion, Desert Breath still remains. Just like the conical sands that form when you turn over an hourglass, it too illustrates the passage of time, as wind and other elements reintroduce it to the surrounding landscape.