Land Art & Ecology

Site_Specific International Land Art Biennale 2013

Restoring elemental kinship
between humans & the living Earth

by Kim Trollip

If you engage with the untamed land through your eyes and ears, you will be rewarded with great beauty. However, if you engage with the land through your heart, the true mysteries of life begin to unfold around and within you.

The works of leading land artists are being placed along one of the world's most bio-diverse landscapes, the Eden to Addo Corridor Initiative. This activity - which forms part of the second Site_Specific International Land Art Biennale 2013 - will enlist all six of your senses.

The Eden to Addo Land Art Route is a way of uniquely combining art and conservation, with a once-in-a-lifetime wilderness experience. The Eden to Addo Great Corridor Hike, a 400 km pilgrimage for conservation held every year in September, is the focus of the Land Art Route. Berning's ambition is to have a series of Land Art pieces along the length of the Great Corridor Hike starting with Simon Max Bannister's magnificent Aartmoeders artwork, already located on the Kranshoek coastline.

For those who have not yet come across Eden to Addo, it is a conservation initiative to link three mega-reserves - namely the Garden Route National Park, The Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve and the Addo Elephant National Park - by means of natural corridors to protect and restore the integrity of biodiversity and eco-system functioning.  "The ultimate dream is to connect the Western and Eastern Cape of South Africa, re-establishing the ancient elephant migration paths across the Cape; benefitting other species and restoring ecological balance in the region," says Berning.

The Land Art Route is to be the first of its kind in South Africa. With its direct link to ecology, conservation corridors and communities, it could indeed be the first of its kind in the world! Eden to Addo is located in one of South Africa's most diverse landscapes incorporating mountains, forests, dunes, farmlands, rivers, Fynbos, thicket as well as succulent and Nama Karoo. The dramatic natural beauty of the area lends itself to showcasing thought-provoking artworks of any scale.

The Land Art Route was an idea of previous Eden to Addo Director Elbie Burger, and without her suggestion for this art route it probably would not exist today. Between 2007 and 2011 Galeo Saintz with assistance and support form Joan Berning, had been tasked with making the Land Art Route happen and to that extent made contact with Strijdom van der Merwe and others, including Mark Read to explore how to make this unique Land Art Route possible. It was Strijdom's enthusiasm and unequivocal support that kept the idea alive.

A natural marriage and wonderful synergy arose, when the Site_Specific event was conceived, as it dovetails perfectly with the  Eden to Addo Land Art Route.

Leading land artists contribute

The sites for the artworks are selected by Eden to Addo, in locations they believe are of significance to the route. "As an artist I then have to respond to that specific site and do something that works with the overall concept behind Eden to Addo and within the energy of the area," explains internationally-renowned South African land artist Strijdom van der Merwe, who is known for his use of found materials such as sand, water, rocks and wood to create his artworks. Strijdom will contribute the second permanent sculpture to the route in 2013 which will be unveiled at the opening ceremony of the Site_Specific Land Art Biennale in August 2013.

Simon Max Bannister was responsible for the first artwork placed along the Eden to Addo Land Art Route during Site_Specific 2011. Aartmoeders was a unique coming together of art, community and conservation. The three stone elephants were erected with the help of Griqua stone masons during an exciting and very successful collaboration with Site_Specific in May 2011, which created opportunities for the Griqua community of Kranshoek to work in association with Eden to Addo and produce Aartmoeders.

At the unveiling the people of Plettenberg Bay from all the different communities came together to celebrate (some had never been to Kranshoek before). The land art piece has become a focal point where communities meet to admire the surrounding fynbos and wild rocky coast of the Robberg Coastal Corridor.  It has created an opportunity for the people of Kranshoek to guide tourists to the artwork and the hiking trail developed around it.

Ecology & art collide & cooperate

The land art project aims to create the first ever Land Art Route in South Africa in collaboration with a specific conservation initiative. The objective is to raise funds for conservation, encourage and support the arts and create opportunities for the communities in the area. "The words 'conservation', 'art' and 'community' don't usually occur in the same sentence, if we can get these three terms to co-exist with a mutually beneficial outcome then we will have achieved our goal," adds Berning.

In addition to the above ongoing development of the Land Art Route, conservation adventurer Galeo Saintz and artist Simon Max Bannister are combining forces to create two-day facilitated ecological land art walk during the 2013 Site_Specific event as a taste of what can be expected along the great hike.

Hikers on the 400 km Eden to Addo Great Corridor Hike held in September each year will have an opportunity to enjoy art en route. In future, those who cannot hike will have the opportunity to drive from one land art piece to the next, creating a tourism attraction with its associated benefits for the landowners within the Eden to Addo Corridor.

Those interested in participating in the 2013 Great Corridor Hike can register online or attend a slide show during the festival. Entry fees are considered S18A tax-deductible donations.

"Eden to Addo offers a guided hiking experience that is full of ecological learning, history and beauty," adds Bannister. "The initial moment of reveal on encountering a land artwork while walking is what appeals most to me. At its best the creation process enhances your way of seeing, sensing place and understanding the ecology and history of its location.

"Working with the materials found onsite brings me and the observer closer to the land and its phenomena. Unlike a gallery, the artwork is directly connected to the environment. To create land art in pristine wilderness is the optimal time and space to carefully leave a trace for the land, animals and people."