Daesung Lee’s photo series “Futuristic Archeology” visualizes the threat climate change poses to Mongolia’s traditional nomadic culture. As global warming takes its course, the country’s once-lush land has become increasingly arid. According to a Mongolian government survey, hundreds of lakes and rivers have dried out. Twenty-five percent of the territory has turned into desert within the past 30 years. Mongolia’s nomadic people, who comprise about 35 percent of the population, haven’t fared well with these changes, as they depend on the land for their livelihood.
“Mongolian traditional nomadic lifestyle might only exist in museums in the future,” writes Lee. Many museums, it has been said, are not bastions of active culture but rather tombs for cultural practices that once were. Lee’s “Futuristic Archeology” series visualizes the concept of Mongolia’s timeworn ways of life disappearing and carrying on only through images.
For the series, Lee put up large-scale photos amid real-life landscapes, creating an uncanny continuity between the physical scene and 2D image. Displayed behind velvet ropes like in a museum, the photographs look like portals into a flatter, more artificial-looking world. Lee makes human subjects and herds of animals appear as if they are walking into the frames, as if leaving the land behind. “Futuristic Archeology” cleverly uses optical illusions to draw viewers into its sobering subject matter, calling attention to the plights of people often left out of the mainstream conversation surrounding climate change.