A striking photographic exhibition on floods and the climate crisis

The exhibition depicts the human condition against the backdrop of overwhelming climate events around the world, highlighting the global nature of the climate crisis.

Since 2007, Mendel has made nineteen trips to document flooding in thirteen countries, witnessing a shared human experience of disaster that is brought together in visual solidarity through this exhibit.

While the repercussions of extreme weather can be felt by all of us, the gap between those with the economic wealth and infrastructure to recover from the destruction continues to grow. The drowning world shown here represents only a tiny fraction of those lives shaken by our climate emergency over the years of completing this work.

The exhibition includes a series of ‘Submerged Portraits‘ where Mendel uses portraiture to show the impact of the climate crisis in an intimate way, focusing on an individual’s experience; a video installation – ‘The Water Chapters’ – exploring individual, family and community responses to flooding, with each ‘chapter’ dedicated to the flooding of a country; and a series of “Shields” used by participants in the arts/activist events that were part of the COP21 Climate Conference in Paris and made by Mendel, using art to draw attention to the climate emergency.

Gideon Mendel said: “Over the years of carrying out this work, the global geopolitical situation in relation to our climate emergency has become increasingly urgent. Extreme weather conditions caused by the climate crisis are becoming more frequent.

This year the UK recorded its hottest temperature on record of 40.3 degrees, leading to several areas declaring a state of drought, followed by flash floods. As scientists and engineers continue to develop ways for us to reduce the likelihood of disaster, many people face the immediate devastating impact of extreme weather on their lives, homes and communities. I feel personally responsible for making this project speak as loudly as possible”.

Drowning World is part of a series of projects exploring climate change and the natural world. Also featured at Waterside in Gallery ’74 will be Dore Holm by Liúsaidh Ashley Watt – an exhibition exploring the experience of the MMU photography graduate returning to the Shetland Islands after 15 years, reflecting on how identity can be shaped by landscape, heritage and folklore.

The artist uses photography with strong performative elements to reflect on how identity can be shaped by place, heritage and folklore. Liúsaidh works with self-portraiture and landscapes, marrying the two to create a co-dependent relationship between figure and environment.

The project’s namesake is the small islet off Eshaness, shown in the moving image. Dore Holm derives from the Scandinavian words meaning “gate” and “little island”. This definition sums up Liúsaidh’s motivation for this project, which is to provide a portal to view the islands she calls home.

Waterside is also proud to be part of the Future Arts Centre’s People’s Plan For Nature project, which will invite people from across the UK to share ideas on how we solve nature’s crisis, putting nature at the center of the national conversation.

This project will inspire politicians to change laws, business leaders to change their practices, and people to make changes in their daily lives.

At Waterside, we will harness visitor ideas through a tree installation inside the building. For approximately six weeks, starting Monday, September 19, visitors will be invited to hang ‘idea sheets’ on the tree with their thoughts and suggestions on their relationship with nature and nature’s crisis. Suggestions from the general public will be shared and discussed at a citizens’ assembly in November as part of the national project.


drowning world

Dates: Saturday September 10 to Saturday November 5

Tracey L. Sweeney