Giant Billboards Paint a Discordant Portrait of Mongolian Desertification

Daesung Lee breaks down the fourth wall between large-scale dioramas of threatened environments and the modern nomadic peoples affected by them.

Emerson Rosenthal

From Futuristic archaeology by Daesung Lee. Images used with permission, courtesy the artist

A large-scale museum diorama popped up in the Mongolian plains, challenging the unending ebb and flow of history by making apparent the borders between the actual and the ideal. Created by Paris-based Korean photographer Daesung Lee, the giant billboard that anchors his Futuristic archaeology project is adorned with images of desertification in Mongolia—that is, the places where, due to environmental and human factors, the drying landscape is threatening centuries-old traditions. 

"Environmental changes directly threaten the Mongolian nomadic way of life, which has been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years," Lee writes in the project's statement. "This project attempts at recreating the museum diorama with actual people and their livestock in a real place where [desertification occurs] in Mongolia. It is based on an imagination that these people try to go into [the] museum diorama for survival in the future." 

Created between 2013 and 2014, the result is a fourth wall-breaking photo series that looks to the past, present, and future of nomadic peoples and the land they have come to represent. "By doing this, I hope to accomplish a sense that the lives of these nomadic people occur between this reality and a virtual space of a museum," Lee continues, quoting statistics that suggest that "potentially 75% of Mongolian territory is at risk of desertification." Lee fears that these traditional lifestyles might only exist in "museums in the future," but with Futuristic archaeology, preserves the culture by synthesizing harsh realities with what can best be described as the stuff of dreams.

Below, check out images from Futuristic archaeology by Daesung Lee, and head over to his website for more. 


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