᠊ᠬ| ЗААГ| ZAAG | MONGOLIA | 2023

᠊ᠬ| ЗААГ| ZAAG  is a collaboration between artists Ariuntuya Jambaldorj and Diana Chester that opened at Funkhaus in Ulaanbaatar on July 4th 2023. The work was developed for the Lost Rivers LAB curated by Gantuya Badamgarav. The artists spent five days in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia recording and documenting the lost rivers, sand dunes, springs and oasis of the Gobi. Zaag is a boundary a border. It is the border between life and death, beginnings and endings, and in the case of the Gobi what is wet and dry. This year alone 362 Mongolian rivers have significantly shrunk in size or disappeared. This work is made entirely from materials they gathered and documented during their trip.

Zam Zaag, the title of the video work and sound piece, is the path that we lead or follow, it is the way life evolves and moves and travels and it is a form of destiny that happens with and without our control.  This work explores the lack or loss of water that leaves in its wake – paths and tracks in the land and in people’s faith and connection. Sometimes these paths come together and sometimes they move apart.  The absence of the rivers feels like a death but aesthetically these riverbeds and ‘used-to-be waterways’ are beautiful. We are aiming to show this beauty and to remember the loss.

The Lost Rivers concept is not specific to Mongolia. People around the world are worried about lost rivers and environmental change. There is a story in our paths, the paths of water and the paths of people. This work explores these stories and these paths and aims to refocus us on nature, bringing reconnection to a place that can feel lost. 




Zam Zaag


Artistic Ruminations on Zaag

Border Boundaries, water, absence, tangible, intangible, invisible, lost and then found.

Zaag|Lost Rivers Where are the rivers lost to? Where does the water go?

It becomes ice and melts, it goes under the earth (lost rivers).

The rivers are drunk dry by too many animals.

The Lost Rivers create roads, spaces and places in their absence.

Dryness and dividing lines—deep paths we drive and walk.

When we see the water and it flows and gurgles and bubbles and drips, we feel the presence of something in short supply, something we make precious in our minds, something that is precious for animals to drink, made sacred for humans, eternal life spring, health spring…

Water ways lost become lines and paths in the desert that can lead us to ice, water, or other treasures. But sometimes water lost leaves only paths, borders, boundaries to new and yet considered relationships. These paths become roads and they seperate. Humans leap over these, and animals can or cannot cross them.

The water/Ice is the starting point, the origin, where things begin. Beyond the source is where the Zaag begins.

Water like language brings us together. We comment and connect over our mutual need for water.

With water gone we run the risk of conflict. What does a border (zaag) mean in conflict? What is a boundary?


Ariuntuya Jambaldorj

Ariuntuya Jambaldorj is a contemporary artist who was born in Mongolia, in 1992. She started attending monumental art class at Fine Art School at the Mongolian University of Arts and Culture in 2010 and graduated with a bachelor degree in 2014. The artworks of Ariuntuya are poetic. She worked with simple materials such as ink, watercolor, papers, rice paper, pen, thread, paper mache etc. Her art conveys concepts and questions about the existence of the individual, the relations between man and nature; natural processes, time concepts through visual arts, multidisciplinary arts such as drawings, paintings, poems, installations, performances, experimental public and video art.

She displayed her first solo exhibition titled “A Drop of Air” at art space 976+, in 2019. She had a second solo exhibition “The Fountain” at Red Ger creative space there that year. Also her animation ‘Thread’ won “the Best Animated Film” prize at the AKIFF- Altan Khalis International Film Festival in 2019. J.Ariuntuya has presented media artwork “Origin 21” under the theme ‘XXI’ at the 6th UBll\1_AF (Ulaanbaatar International Media Art Festival) organized by Arts Council of Mongolia in collaboration with the Goethe-lnstitut Mongolia and with the support of the Ministry of Culture in 2021 and  Art week 2021 organized by Mongolian Ministry of Culture.

Ariuntuya conducted art classes in Munkhguru Center 2013 – 2015, Tsagaan Darium Art Gallery 2014- 2015 and Erdem Center 2014-2017. She also attended Young Leadership in the Arts and Culture, a program organized by Arts Council of Mongolia and Young Leadership Program by Zorig Foundation. From 2015 to 2019, she was a co-founder and an artist at My Studio and the “Tara Lifestyle” brand. In 2016, 2017 she worked as visual artist and mentor for joint project “Re-Imagine Mongolia”of  The Arts Council of Mongolia (ACM) and Swiss Cooperation in Mongolia (SCM). In 2017, Ariuntuya worked on the organizational team of the National Pavilion of Mongolia at the 57th Venice Art Biennale. Since 2019, she is working as an art teacher at Elite International School of Ulaanbaatar.


Diana Chester

Chester is an internationally recognized digital media artist, educator and researcher using sound to explore more-than-human dimensions of understanding existence in the time of the Anthropocene. Their work uses sound, animation, and photography in conversation with ethnographic and archival materials, to convey ideas of pasts, presents, and futures. Driven by an intense desire to re-presence story and memory, Chester uses personal narratives as a method to voice to the world around them. To do so they fluidly explore multilingual, inter-environmental, and data generated soundscapes, finding rhythmic cadences and synergies from the natural world, and placing them in conversation with visual materials to compose “listening stories” that compel humans to think more deeply about inclusive ideas of place and belonging.

Current projects include the study of sound and culture focused on religion and the environment, the audio essay as a form of sonic scholarship, and new artistic methods and practices to sonify scientific data sets. Chester is the author of Sonic Encounters: The Islamic Call to Prayer, which gives a glimpse into the creative, methodological, and artistic implications of a 10-year research project making field recordings of (adhan) the Islamic call to prayer at mosques around the world. Chester’s broader body of work includes numerous journal articles, sonic compositions, and solo exhibitions in the United States, Australia, India, Sweden, Iceland, Mongolia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Chester is Senior Lecturer in Media and Communication at the University of Sydney and has held visiting academic positions at NYU’s TISCH School of the Arts and Duke University. Chester has been commissioned by the Smithsonian, been resident artist at Inter Arts Centre in Malmo, Sweden (2019), ArtsIceland in Ísafjörður, Iceland (2022), and Red Corner International Artist Residency in Mongolia (2023). Chester has been the recipient of a Sydney Environment Institute Collaborative Fellowship, has been named a Powerhouse Research Fellow at the Museum of Arts and Applied Sciences, and currently holds a visiting scholar appointment at the Oxford Center for Life-Writing and the University of Oxford.