Artist-in-Residence : Strijdom van der Merwe
22 July - 8 August 2013 • Plettenberg Bay, South Africa
Calling the Herd
EDEN TO ADDO LAND ART WORK
This exciting interactive land art work in the Keurbooms Corridor consists of several trumpet-like funnels combined in a tree shape. Visitors can blow these trumpets - recalling the sounds of elephants on their ancient migration route across the mountains. Symbolically this art work relates to the three elephant sculptures of Aartmoeders - calling them (and all humans that can hear the call) to join in the Eden to Addo journey towards re-establishing nature's ancient routes for all species.
This artwork was unveiled on the 11th of August 2013 as part of Site_Specific's 2nd International Land Art Biennale opening event in Plettenberg Bay.
'TWO QUESTIONS' with Strijdom van der Merwe
As part of Site_Specific's facebook posts katty vandenberghe interviews Strijdom in her 'TWO QUESTIONS' interview series.
Q: Leading up to the main land art event in August, you are completing an artists' residency in Plett. Thus far you are the third Site_Specific artist-in-residence, preceded by Gordon Froud and Erica Lüttich earlier in the year. Can you tell us a bit more about what you're planning?
A: "I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to create the second sculpture in a series of works planned for the Eden to Addo trail. The trail was developed as a fundraising activity to preserve and rehabilitate the elephant's habitat, and it follows their traditional route – now no longer in use. When visiting the site to familiarise myself with its' natural environment and geographical circumstances – I was impressed with the great valleys that open up in front of the viewer, and thought about how they echo and reflect sound. In close collaboration with the Eden to Addo steering committee, we agreed on a permanent work titled 'Calling the Herd' in honour of the elephants. The work is a symbolic calling or trumpeting from us to the elephants as an invitation and encouragement to get them back and walking the route again."
Q: When you do a land art installation, what is your working process? How much of it is planned ahead of time, and how much do you allow the environment and local circumstances to influence or change your ideas?
A: "You have to distinguish between two working processes. The one is about creating work for your portfolio as artist. These works are very 'free' in the sense that you respond to nature alone in determining what you will do. It's a case of nature having a bigger impact on you, than you on nature. A site, and the materials it offers, will reveal itself to you as you walk – be it in a forest, or along a beach, or in the Karoo. Only then will ideas and working methods start developing. It's a process of working with the natural material you find on site. Nothing is planned ahead – it's all improvised as you go along.
In the second situation it may involve accepting a commission for a festival, an event, or a client. Now you probably have to consider creating something for an audience. It needs to be accessible and semi-permanent for the duration of the event or specified time period. In these cases it's about finding a balance between working sensitively with nature whilst satisfying the relevant audience or sponsor. For most of these works I believe that the message must come from nature, or be in service of it. The only time you move away from using local natural materials, is when you wish to bring across a message that is important and will make a long-lasting impression. Most works are non-permanent, and the material will be recycled or removed once the event is over.
Whether you are alone in the Karoo creating works in solitude, or you're surrounded by the pressures of sponsors and audience demands at a festival – the most important aspect must always be that nature is the determining factor in your creative process."
The artwork was unveiled at the 2013 event opening: sitespecific.org.za/land-art-biennale-2013/timetable. On facebook: Site_Specific International Land Art Biennale 2013