The Second Fire

Gabriela Bulisova

2018 - Ongoing

The Second Fire is a joint project of artists Gabriela Bulisova and Mark Isaac. It is an intimate and innovative look at the impact of climate change and pollution on Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia, the world’s oldest, deepest and most voluminous lake. The project is inspired by an indigenous Buryat origin myth about the Lake, which contains one-fifth of the world’s freshwater. According to this legend, there was an enormous earthquake, fire came out of the earth, and native people cried “Bai, Gal!” or “Fire, stop!” in the Buryat language. The fire stopped, and water filled the crevice, creating the Lake, with its crystal clean water and diverse flora and fauna.

Now, scientific studies demonstrate that the Baikal region is one of the areas experiencing the most rapid increases in temperature in the world. Summer surface water temperatures increased by 2 degrees Celsius between 1977 and 2003, harming native plants and animals and contributing to massive blooms of algae. The warming of Baikal represents a “Second Fire” that endangers the Lake and its fragile ecosystem.

Baikal is called the “Sacred Sea” by native Buryats and Evenks, who lived their lives in concert with the natural world long before the environmental movement was born. Their “ecological ethics” provide a meaningful blueprint for a sustainable future, but the insistence of some that Baikal will withstand whatever humans do to it may undermine preservation efforts.

The project attempts to universalize the subject matter and make clear that Baikal’s problems affect not just Russians but everyone around the globe. Now is a time when we all must reflect on what we will do to safeguard what Siberian author and environmentalist Vladimir Rasputin called the “eternity and perfection” of the Sacred Sea.

All photographs are digital single exposures and were created by the artists under the auspices of a Fulbright Scholar Grant. The full project includes additional portfolios of experimental photographs, three-channel videos, original music composed from scientific data about climate change at Lake Baikal, essays, and more. It can be found at:

{{ readMoreButton }}