Drowning World

Drowning World

From July 3 to September 24, 2017, Les Rencontres D’arles, Paris will present Drowning World by South African artist Gideon Mendel. The exhibition explores the human dimension of climate change by focusing on floods across geographical and cultural boundaries. Rather than the literal depiction of disaster zones, Gideon Mendel focuses on the personal impact of flooding to evoke our shared vulnerability to global warming and question our sense of stability in the world.

The Drowning World project consists of four related series. Submerged Portraits are intimate portraits of flood victims. Their poses may seem conventional but their unsettling gazes challenge us to consider their context.

The ‘Floodlines’ series records the physical incursion of rising water through intimate living quarters and public spaces, presenting a paradox of order and calm within chaos. The ‘Watermarks’ series consists of enlargements of flood-damaged personal snapshots, sometimes anonymous flotsam fished from the water or mud, sometimes given by homeowners. Through floods, chemical interaction with water—ironically, essential to developing photographs—has transformed these private moments into metaphors of our exposure to environmental disorder. Tideline presents this collection as a framed archive of archaeological memory. The video component of Drowning World and The Water Chapters, explores the tension between the frozen photographic moment and the perpetual movement and uncertainty of dystopian, post-flood environments.

Gideon Mendel was born in 1959 in Johannesburg and holds a Bachelor degree in psychology and African history from the University of Cape Town. Mendel is known for his work as a ‘struggle photographer’ and his 20-year photographic odyssey on the impact of HIV/AIDS. He has exhibited his work extensively, and has received a several awards including the Pollock Prize for Creativity, Eugene Smith award for Humanistic Photography, a POY Canon Photo Essayist award, the Amnesty International Media award for Photojournalism and was shortlisted for the Prix Pictet Prize (2015) for Drowning World.


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