Confronted by a rapidly changing society, in which Mongolia’s nomadic culture and its symbiotic relation to nature is rapidly disappearing as large-scale mining of gold and coal is exploited without effective controls, how does an artist respond? Tuguldur Yondonjamts creates fantastical stories that enfold myths, objects and practices from across deep time, Mongolian history, and our modern globally-connected culture. His artistic practice is a visual manipulation of his training in classical Mongolian painting with his research-based art practice. His work can be understood as a series of journeys, not unlike those of the historically nomadic people of Central Asia. For the artist, the process of his scientific and mystical studies is as important as the artistic output. He presents both real, imagined, and interpreted landscapes, tracing the coexistence between the tamed and untamed world.
Tuguldur’s exhibition at Arts Catalyst combines existing film work and costumes with new investigations from his concurrent residency exploring cultural beliefs and phenomena that hover enticingly between myth and fact. In his film, An Artificial Nest Captures a King, the artist travels from artificial falcons’ nests on the Mongolian steppes to the Gobi desert, where he discovers a fossil crocodile, a mythological creature which he enters and animates. Driving a 1980s Russian utility vehicle, this shamanic journey gives the illusion of continuing its progress in linear time along a desert road, yet from above we see the car caught in the folds of looped time.
In his new investigations, the artist will visit the site of a famous crop circle that appeared near the Chilbolton radio telescope in Hampshire in 2001 that is purported to be a response to the ‘Arecibo message’, a piece of coded information about Earth and humanity beamed into space in 1974, and will meet some of the artists who created crop circle formations. The crop circle site inspired the artist to research binary communication, from which he has developed a binary language. Yondonjamts is currently translating the ancient Mongolian poem Khan Kharangui into this new binary language. Khan Kharangui, which can be translated as ‘darkest dark’, forms part of a singing ritual from west Mongolia that is performed at night in order to bring prosperity. It is a strange story about love, competition, travel and magical events.
Alongside this, the artist will be making preparations for a journey to Antarctica (where Mongolia is currently establishing a scientific base), and he will meet with artists and scientists who have visited the frozen continent.
Yondonjamts lives and works in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and New York, USA.