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Capturing The Beauty Of Dereliction In Mare Mortuum

Antonina Gorbenko

Over the past decade the Dead Sea has been rapidly shrinking by as much as one metre every year. The diversion of the Jordan river in the north and the mineral mining industry in the south has ensured sustained resource deterioration which has led to the appearance of craters, or sinkholes. These formations sometimes draw fresh waters, and where there is freshwater, there is hope for new life.

In 2020 artist/photographer Sasha Davai went to Israel and the Occupied Territories of Palestine to study permaculture, a complex approach for ecological principles applied to agriculture and settlement design. There she was seeking understanding of the way closed self-sustaining ecological communities operate.

During her stay Sasha started an ongoing series called ‘Adaptation’ exploring the changing relationship between humans and the landscape through photographing abandoned places and communities living off grid. The series attempts to imagine a post-climate-catastrophe world, rethinking the ‘poetics of the ruin’.

Sasha comes from a family that has specialised in mining for 4 generations, starting with her great grandfather who worked in gold mines in western Siberia at the beginning of the 20th century. Continuing the family’s tradition, one of the recurring themes is the investigation of the human impact on the land. Deserted ghost towns become portraits of the humans that once occupied them. Although these people are long gone, their presence is felt through the man-made structures that survived.

As part of the series she documented a ghost town Ein Gedi, once a flourishing holiday resort that was abandoned in the late 80s when the first sinkholes started appearing. “There’s something prehistoric about the landscapes of the Dead Sea. It’s at the lowest elevation on Earth, one of the harshest conditions on the planet. Animals can’t survive here, the air is always still and the depths are lifeless.” she recalls. “So it feels as if you are an archeologist, as if you have found Atlantis'. These ruins serve as a reminder of the human struggle to control natural resources.

Only 2 kilometres away beneath the checkpoint at Metsoke Dragot’s beach lives a community who have learned to adapt to the conditions of this salty desert. Their houses are fragile; constructed from found camping gear abandoned by previous travellers, they creak and shake in the wind. Here past, present and future nomads learn that temporality is the currency.

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