Drowning World: A Striking Photography Exhibition Exploring Flooding & Climate Crisis

Drowning World is an exploration of flooding using photography and video by activist and artist Gideon Mendel, who challenges expected representations of natural disaster…

By Manchester's Finest | Last updated 30 March 2023

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The exhibition portrays the human condition within the context of overwhelming climate events around the world, highlighting the global nature of the climate crisis.

Since 2007, Mendel has made nineteen trips to document floods in thirteen countries, witnessing a shared human experience of catastrophe which are brought together in visual solidarity through this exhibition.

While the repercussions of extreme weather can be felt by us all, the divide between those who have the economic wealth and infrastructure to recover from the destruction keeps growing. The Drowning World shown here represents just a tiny fraction of those lives buffeted by our climate emergency in the years of making this work.

The exhibition comprises 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, each “chapter” dedicated to one country’s flood; and a series of ‘Shields’ used by participants in the art/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 making this work, the global geopolitical situation in relation to our climate emergency has become increasingly urgent. Extreme weather caused by the climate crisis is becoming more frequent.

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

Olnafirth Kirk in the Mist. Image: Liúsaidh Ashley McLaughlin-Watt

Drowning World forms part of a series of projects exploring climate change and the natural world. Also featured at Waterside in Gallery ’74 will be Liúsaidh Ashley Watt’s Dore Holm – an exhibition exploring the MMU photography graduate’s experience of returning home 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 the figure and the environment.

The project’s namesake is the small islet off the shores of Eshaness, shown in the animated image. Dore Holm derives from the Scandinavian words meaning “Doorway” and “Small Island”. This definition encapsulates the motivation Liúsaidh had for this project, which is to provide a portal to view the islands she calls home.


Drowning World

Dates: Saturday 10th September – Saturday 5th November