Merimbula was originally presented in the context of Danae Stratou’s solo show titled Burning Issues – Merimbula. Curated by Christoforos Marinos and organised by the City of Athens Culture, Sports and Youth Organisation (OPANDA), the show was hosted at The City of Athens Art Centre, in Parko Eleftherias (Freedom Park), Athens, Greece from 25 May to 10 July 2022.
The show comprised two juxtaposed installations that dramatically transformed the Arts Centre’s architectural space. To achieve this, the artist worked in close collaboration with the installation architect Maria Maneta. Danae Stratou constructed an immersive environment featuring the representation of a healthy forest (Merimbula), in one installation, and a powerful video of large sheets of paper burning incessantly at a very slow pace in the other. Highlighting fire, its symbolism, and destructive consequences. Visitors entered a space of spiritual awakening, cleansing, and purification. This exhibition by Stratou speaks to pressing issues of our time – the urgency of developing ecological awareness and strengthening environmental responsibility.
Australia’s forests engender a rich symbolism related to the contradictions of modern human society. The Merimbula Forest is a coastal area in south-eastern New South Wales that in 2019 was destroyed by unprecedented forest fires, sparking a heated debate about climate change among communities that had previously refused it. The photographs featured in the installation were taken by the artist in 2009 & 2010, along with recordings of Australian bell magpies, which have now turned silent.
The floor area was entirely covered with a rich layer of dark fertile soil while the walls were papered over, from floor to ceiling, with wallpaper vividly depicting the Merimbula forest (New South Wales, Australia, burned down in January 2020). The thirty metre photographic spread, covering the installation space’s walls, was created by connecting/editing about 100 photographs of a forest clearing in Merimbula’s forested area. A soundscape featured the famous bell songbirds that used to dominate the Merimbula forest (as recorded in situ) by Danae Stratou during her travels in the area.