Image : Amir Cohen / Reuters
American photographer Spencer Tunick returned to the Dead Sea at the weekend to photograph 200 naked participants near the city of Arad to raise awareness of the receding waters of the Dead Sea.
Tunick hopes his dramatic intervention will connect with two previously held installations in the area, in 2011 and 2016, which together will show the eradication of the lake, whose surface at 430.5m below sea level is the lowest land-based elevation on Earth.
Famed for his naked photoshoots across the world, Tunick was also in Arad to support the funding for a physical Dead Sea Museum run by his friend and founder, Ari Leon Fruchter. The Dead Sea Museum is currently virtual and was behind Tunick’s visit to the area in 2011 where 1,200 participants were photographed wadding in the waters that have now disappeared.
A virtual exhibition at the Dead Sea Museum showcases Spencer Tunick’s photos from 2011
The photographs have now been showcased in a virtual exhibition on the Dead Sea Museum website, which was launched last month.
“Sharing the Dead Sea with the world through art has been a passion of mine that began back in 2011 when I brought Spencer Tunick to Israel for a floating installation with 1,200 participants,” said Fruchter about the virtual exhibition.
“My goal is to one day build a physical museum that would simulate the experience of visiting the dead sea that is no longer possible today due to the shrinking water level and sinkholes.”
This time around Tunick was invited by Israel’s Ministry of Tourism, which contributed around one-third of the cost of Tunick’s trip, with the rest coming from private sponsors and supporters of the museum.
The photoshoot took place on the proposed land of the new museum and was restricted to 200 mostly Israeli participants, who wore white body paint, a reference to the mineral formations of the area.
Man-made ecological disaster
The Dead Sea’s water level has shrunk by around a third since the 1960s and is receding by more than a metre a year. Environmental groups say this is a man-made ecological disaster, the result of a scramble for scarce water resources in the arid region
Israel and Jordan have also diverted much of the upstream water for agriculture and drinking water with mineral extraction and evaporation accelerated by climate change.
Over the past five decades, thousands of sinkholes have appeared as fresh water diffuses into salt deposits beneath the surface and dissolves the deposits until the earth above collapses without warning.
The Dead Sea Museum has partnered with a number of organisations including The Dead Sea Revival Project an NGO for environmental education and activism, to highlight the situation.
Interested in how museums can respond to the climate crisis? Join us for the Green Museums Summit in March 2022.
About the author – Adrian Murphy
Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.