It starts with different scenes of rippling water against a stationary background, creating an enticing illusion of the constant and the moving, a still reflection dancing in the water. Then, it starts panning across neighborhoods and houses before people appear, rowing boats and canoes through the land they knew that suddenly drowned. People trek through the waters alone at first, and then pairs of people make it through the water together. Eventually, it shows families and first responders appearing, these groups of people staying strong together.
People waddle through the remains of their houses, trying to salvage whatever is floating by. You watch people washing the walls with the flood water and wring their drenched clothes from the laundry washer. It ends with people just standing in the flood waters, alone or with their family, just staring at the camera, their gaze somber and intense. They hold ruined photographs from the flood, distorting the faces of these individuals from the past and the present affected by these catastrophes.
This work opened my eyes, quite literally, to the frequency of these events and the grave aftermath of them. Deluge features ten years worth of floods all over the world, and in just thirteen minutes, he shows a captivating glimpse into the reality of such global phenomena. The silence of the video installation, except for the sound of moving water, was haunting, which was a great choice made by Gideon Mendel. The panels played continuously in the dark room in the Institute for the Humanities, allowing visitors to walk in at any moment and feel instantly invested in the scenes that appear in front of them.
Every place was different, yet there was a commonality between the floods. You can’t tell the exact country or location of the shots, and that doesn’t matter. As the five panels displayed high water levels and people of all ages and races with water up to their stomachs, you realize climate change and floods are a global issue.