He’s coming back! In 2011, artist Spencer Tunick incited hundreds of people to shed their inhibitions (and their clothes) to raise awareness to the environmental threats facing the Dead Sea. This September, five years after that mass naked photo shoot, at the request of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, he will return to check on the worsening sea situation.
Dr. Clive Lipchin, director of the Center for Transboundary Water Management at the Arava Institute, will lead the visit, which will include a return to Mineral Beach, site of the original photo shoot. Mineral Beach has since closed to the public due to the proliferation of sinkholes. Diminishing sea levels are changing surrounding groundwater flows. As freshwater moves through the aquifer, it dissolves subterranean salt deposits and creates underground voids which cause surface collapse. Sinkholes on the western bank of the Dead Sea appear – unpredictably – almost daily.
Tunick’s return to the region aims to send a message to the public, to government and to international organizations that stepped up action is urgently needed to stop the irreversible damage to area ecological systems. His 2011 photographs provoked controversy and conversation that he hoped would bring about increased conservation.
His visit builds on that initial effort, when 1200 volunteers participated in a mass naked art installation. Through the resulting photographs, Tunick hoped to awaken the Israeli public to act.
“The threat to the Dead Sea’s existence is more tangible than ever,” says Dr. Lipchin. “These are not horror scenarios but an up to date situation report. The Dead Sea we once knew doesn’t exist anymore. The harm that has been done on all environmental levels has caused damages that are partly irreversible, and for those that still can be fixed – the window of opportunity is narrow and will soon be closed. Spencer Tunick’s visit will help to raise the topic with decision makers throughout the world, since unfortunately, the Israeli government so far has failed miserably regarding this issue.”
For over a decade, Lipchin has researched the degradation of the Dead Sea and its surroundings.
Speaking of the 2011 event, Ari Leon Fruchte, the producer of that “NakedSea” installation, said, “Since then there has been a lot of talk but no concrete action to save the Dead Sea, and the situation has gone from grim to grave. I hope that Spencer’s return and work with the Arava Institute will reignite the public interest and inspire many more to get involved.”
Tunick said in a press release, “Since 1991 I have traveled the world making immersive art with people of all races, religions, and nationalities; but Israel is a unique place that I hold close to my heart and is the only country in the Middle East where I can be allowed to have proper freedom of expression. I care deeply about the future of the Dead Sea and hope that my presence and involvement here can propel the Israeli Government and Local Activists to take real measurable action to save the Dead Sea. I am not sure if we will have this same opportunity again”
The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies is a leading academic center for the development of environmental leadership in the Middle East. Since 1996, the Institute has engaged in academic study and research in a range of environmental areas with an emphasis on cooperation between neighboring nations. Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, and international students study at the Institute, where, in addition to their academic program, students take active part in cross-border environmental cooperation and action.