The Dead Sea

2015-2016

Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam

View of Dead Sea Works, one of the top-10 sites in the world for the extraction of compounds used in fertilisers. Its large scale evaporation ponds are contributing to the depletion of the sea and the appearance of sinkholes in the area. The fertiliser industry generated $170 to $200 billion in sales revenue worldwide in 2015. However, it has dreadful effects not only for the villages and ecology of the Dead Sea’s shores, but also for the business itself.

Since the early 2000s, landmasses have been collapsing around the Dead Sea. Directly linked to the depletion of water, the sea level has been rapidly dropping at around one metre per year. As a result, over 6,000 documented sinkholes have appeared so far, some as large as two kilometres long and 25 metres deep, tearing the shores of the Dead Sea apart. Water runoff from the arid mountains seeps into the ground where the sea once lay, dissolving underground deposits of rock salt and creating huge cavities that eventually surrender to the weight of the earth on top. The surface of the ground is in the process of becoming an unstable membrane, liable to subside at any given moment. 

Receding shores and overhanging roads: new topographies are found along the shores of the Dead Sea as its level drops one metre each year since the 2000s. The Palestinian/Israeli side of the Dead Sea is experiencing more dramatic effects than its Jordanian counterpart, as the shores are considerably less steep on the West side of the water. In Kibbutz Ein Gedi, a parking lot was closed in 1995—the first infrastructure to surrender to sinkholes in the area—after the pavement started to fracture and the soil eventually collapsed. In 2014, the gas station nearby was shut down amid half-sunken date palm trees. 

Driving along the banks of the Dead Sea, abandoned beach resorts, empty buildings and diverted roads populate the arid landscape. Three main forces are accountable for making the surface of the Earth float above caverns: a series of dams built along the Jordan River basin in Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon; the exhaustion of Palestinian groundwater by Israeli settlement agriculture operations and date palm plantations; and above all the extraction of potash and nitrates from the evaporation ponds for the production of fertilisers run by Israeli multinational Dead Sea Works and the Arab Potash Company in Jordan.

CLIMAVORE creates a series of suspended, unstable dining surfaces that constitutes Under The Sea There Is A Hole. These surfaces function as a platform to rethink the spatial implications and frictions between feeding bodies and sinking lands.

Finding a place at the table as it rocks, dinner guests perform the geological consequences of food production on the landscape in front of their mouths. At times a giant sinkhole might not leave enough space for cutlery or glasses, and might oblige guests to negotiate where to place their Dead Sea mud-glazed plates (which differ considerably in size). A poorly balanced appetizer could crash through a sinkhole at any minute. Rather than making the Dead Sea recede further, a CLIMAVORE water stress menu explores forms of eating that aim to make the planet fertile without hyper-fertilising the soil.

The project has taken place at MuseumsQuartier, Vienna (2015); Slow Food, Milan (2015); Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam (2016); and The Empire Remains Shop, London (2016).

Rather than exponentially increasing mineral extraction to keep up with demand for food, we must explore new ways to reduce the need for aggregating nutrients in the soil while still feeding a growing population with equal access to sustenance. The End of Seasons performative meal at Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam, May 2016.

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