Project “S-e-a” is an invitation to a non-existent museum.
The debates about the dried-up Aral Sea have been going on for 50 years. It was possible to save only the Small Aral - a tiny drop, which is only five percent of the former Aral Sea.
All the other ideas about saving the sea have failed and instead, people now are attempting to rescue lives. Former port towns, like memorials, are being turned into attractions or products for tourism entertainment. Tourists are invited to see the Sea, which is almost there or almost not there?
I have been documenting life around the Aral Sea for the last three years. My story begins in the former Aral Sea port in Kazakhstan and goes along dried up shores, through the sand-bound villages, saxaul thickets and poisonous lakes, reaching another former port on the opposite side of the sea in Uzbekistan.
Getting started on the traditional touristic routes, I deliberately keep going astray. Besides the popular locations, promoted locuses, I try to add points in time to the category of museum objects, which are not meant to be remembered. Random objects found on the streets, unknown heroes, customs and social conceptions became the museum artefacts.
With the departure of the sea, the traditional way of life on the Aral Sea collapsed. The professions, skills and way of life of people turned out to be as ridiculous as the remains of ships in the endless sands. For half a century people were stuck in the poisonous desert, where they needed not only to survive but also to love, give birth, raise children, rest. “S-e-a” is an attempt to collect the lost history of an entire people.
With the use of photography, I compiled into one museum exposition this unique experience of Aralkum descendants – the youngest and most toxic desert on the planet.