Runanshah | 2017 | Photocopy of the old newspapers, Video on LCD/LED-screen, Sound

The hotel room contains a presentation of the results obtained so far in the author’s on-going investigation into the Runanshah—a fish-tailed being that, according to eyewitness reports, lives in the Caspian Sea. The roots of this story go back into mythology—to the bewitching images of mermaids in the fairy tales and myths of the Eastern Slays, as well as to the amphibious creatures of Mesopotamian folklore which were simultaneously akin to both people and fish. According to legend, these latter emerged from the waters to teach their skills and knowledge to the inhabitants of the land.

Farzali, however, is not interested in mythological images or sensational articles on paranormal phenomena, but on facts, documents, testimony of witnesses, photographs and attempts to comprehend these accounts in the scientific sphere. In his work, he has gathered mentions of the Runanshah in newspapers from the early days of Azerbaijani independence, photographs taken from on board the fishing trawler Baku by its captain Gafar Gasanov, the interview with the Baku historian and diver Oktai Rzayev, who has been conducting expeditions all over Azerbaijan for over twenty years, and other accounts. According to eye witnesses, the Runanshah has pale skin, dark green hair reminiscent of seaweed, a large nose like a dolphin, and webbed fingers. Some scholars have declared that this amphibious manlike creature or relict hominid is dying out due to marine pollution and overfishing.

The Caspian is a unique natural formation, a saltwater lake which, due to its origins and geopolitical factors has been named a sea. The world’s largest lake is also the largest closed system in which life has been able to develop over a certain period of time. There are hypotheses that one of the world’s most ancient civilizations might be found on the bottom of the Caspian Sea, to which the Runanshah may be connected.