35% of Mongolians are still nomads
Daesung Lee’s Futuristic Archeology project deals with the nomadic people of Mongolia. Although Mongolia has seen increasing modernization and urbanization in recent decades, approximately 35% of Mongolians still live a traditional nomadic lifestyle, thus depending on the vast land and their relationship with the land to survive. However, environmental changes have put their way of life in grave danger, as the land is becoming at risk of desertification.
Environmental changes in Mongolia
Throughout history, nomadic life has been central to traditional Mongolian culture. With social and economic changes in addition to undeniable environmental and climate changes, pursuing a traditional way of life has become difficult, and will be increasingly so. Impacts on the environment are causing the land itself to transform. Approximately 850 lakes and 2,000 rivers and streams have dried up in Mongolia, and a subsequent consequence of this loss of water has led to the desertification of Mongolia.
75% of Mongolia turn into a desert
It is said that approximately 75% of Mongolian territory is potentially at risk of desertification1. These changes to the land and environment directly threaten the Mongolian traditional nomadic ways of life, which is a significant part of group identity. These ways of life have been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years and play a significant part in traditional identity, ancestral history, and notions of self.
The meaning of Lee’s photos
Lee’s project serves as an attempt to recreate a museum diorama, however, without using a studio and models, Lee uses actual people, their livestock, in the traditional countryside, the desertified lands in Mongolia. Lee creates idyllic backdrops and prints these images on billboards.
He then places the billboards in line with the actual landscape’s horizon. In doing so, Lee conveys that the lives of the nomadic people of Mongolia occur between their reality of a disappearing landscape and the space of a museum. This forces viewers to recognize that the changes that are happening are forcing traditional ways into extinction, and may one day only exist in museums.