listen to the echoes of the void

exploring the geological and spiritual richness

a transdiciplinary art project

Over two years this project will investigate the geological, cultural, spiritual, environmental and political meaning of the wastelands in the world, convinced, that the territories and environmental issues are intrinsically connected with culture in terms of understanding “the other” and that the ongoing creation of new forms of expressions helps us to increase awareness. Different levels of topographical transformation will be considered, including desertification by industrialization and globalization. During this collaborative project, multimedia art works will be produced by co-operating with researchers of science and humanities. The outcome will be, along with the art works, a production of special digital and paper publications with scientific, literary and theoretical essays as well as artistic contributions.

Itineraries in wastelands – Maria Rebecca Ballestra’s art project Echoes of the Void


The most of the time we imagine the desert as a waste land, a harsh and hostile ambient in which every life struggles to survive. Moreover we came to know that more and more people are suffering of the desertification as a result of the modern western life, not to speak about the herewith included destruction of the ecosystem. But we know also that there is a fascination about deserts and since ancient times people are traveling and living in deserts with complex cultural traditions;  and we know the fascination of the big industries in an endless search for resources as well.

What is the fascination of deserts about? What is the deep meaning of these waste places? Why it comes that we are searching the inner-be by retreating in the apparent emptiness? How does ancient populations of deserts live and does it has any meaning for us? Is there any proposition possible envisaging the desertification?

Desert: One of the most symbolic and meaningful territories we have on our planet – still not entirely understood. An empty place but full of physical and spiritual resources. The desert is also the  memory of our planet and a symbol of adaptation and regeneration, where seeds and plants may remain inactive for a long time and then regenerate with the slightest presence of moisture. The desert is as well the site of alteration of perception, the place where we lose orientation and where we experience the mirages.

Desertification: Caused by globalized industrialization and urbanization processes, across the world, desertification affects the livelihoods of millions of people who rely on the benefits that dry land ecosystems can provide. Therefore, desertification is one of the greatest environmental challenges today and a major barrier to meeting basic human needs. Desertification takes place in dry lands all over the world. Desertification has environmental impacts that go beyond the areas directly affected.

In a long term project of two years will be investigated and interpreted the different layers of wastelands in its geological, biological, environmental, cultural, social, spiritual, political and historical dimension and meaning. Therefore was chosen to concentrate on the world largest, smallest and ancient wastelands, which are in almost every continent. The two biggest, Arctic and Antarctic are most important as they paradoxically are our water reservoir, now threaten by our globalized modernity. In between the poles we find the Kalahari, Sahara and the Gobi, to name some of the famous deserts.

With wastelands – the existing and the one as result of industrialization – we can grasp how environmental matters are intrinsically connected to culture in terms of understanding the other and to create continuously new combinations of forms of expressions and thus constantly increasing consciousness. As we can see in the examples of the Bushmen: retreating in the Kalahari like the Aborigines in Australian desert, in order to safeguard their ancestral empathetic relationship with the natural world. Like the Bushmen many other ethnical groups are preserving their treasure in front of the expanded western world, which causes desertification on a human level as well. To live or retreat in the desert was always a part of a choice in order to overcome the “last” physical obstacle. As the desert is essential it uncovers the essential of the being; in many religion the desert is the place of the proof, the temptation and of enlightenment, wisdom, purity and revelation. The place of the prophets and of the encounter with the inner-self.

As the desert invites to meditate – in ancient times like today – we wish to expand the artistic experience of the desert into theoretical expressions, scientific and speculative in order to connect abstract, scientific and artistic forms of meditation and searching as an participatory and reflective adventure. The outcome is expected to be next to multimedia artistic works and performances a collection of theoretical and literary essays. The important aspects are hereby next to the specialized lives and cultures, the feasible proposals to defeat the desertification – in all the human lives. 

(by Rachela Abbate)


Visibility and documentation of the project


Artistic Production
It is planned to work on installations, photography, site specific and collaborative operations. The artistic production and/or its documentation will be showcased in various venues.

Scientific Production
Scientists and researcher will contribute essays about the above mentioned levels and aspects of the desert and desertification.

The project will be presented next to exhibition venues and events in diverse publications. Beneath are listed the expected and already confirmed presentations and productions.


  • Final presentation of the project and it art works in the Principality of Monaco
  • Diverse exhibitions during the project in different venues in Europe and United States

Visibility and documentation

  • The project will be documented in pictures, video and in written format
  • artistic and scientific productions will be presented in publications and exhibition catalogues
  • project presentation in form of lectures and during conferences in the academic realm
  • presentation in public venues
  • presentation in online and hardware media
  • online visibility with own website and in social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
  • digital newsletter distributed to a large number of subscribers