In this project, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya – two rivers – become guides on a journey through Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan.
These often overlooked countries exist in the spaces between some of the nations we see most frequently in today’s headlines: China, Russia, Afghanistan, Iran. The stories I found there defied many of my assumptions about the world. Stories about the diversity of Islam, intersecting languages, legendary empires, warlords, and poets; about contested borders, smuggling, energy surpluses and shortages, and political oppression.
The rivers tie these stories together in the most literal, spatial sense, but also on a more abstract level, raising universal questions about the fragility and resilience of life, and the limits of human power.
The book begins at the dried Aral Sea – the ends of the rivers – and moves upstream through five countries, ending at their source. The innovative design by Sybren Kuiperfeatures a Japanese binding with each picture wrapped over the edge of the next page, challenging the viewer to read the images more closely, and to relate them to one another. The reader’s [viewer’s] experience is continuous, but has its own special rhythm, always changing, like the flow of the rivers. The hard cover is wrapped in an earthy linen, with the title graphic etched in black, and it is shorter than the book’s pages, ending abruptly, just as the rivers themselves now end before they reach the Aral Sea. The book will be printed at Spruijt in Amsterdam in a small edition of 750 copies.