Floodwall: Art Exhibition of Jana Napoli in Berlin

”Drawers Speak - New Orleans Five Years Later”

(Berlin; September 10th - October 15th, 2010)
The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy and the US Department of State invite you to attend…

Floodwall: Art Exhibition of Jana Napoli in Berlin

Drawers Speak – New Orleans Five Years Later

September 10 - October 15, 2010
on Board of the KURIER Ship

*Floodwall Opening Event - September 10th, 2010
Introductory Speeches by Philip D. Murphy
(US Ambassador to Germany) and Jana Napoli
Listen: New Orleans 'Floodwall' Exhibit Comes To Berlin
NPR, 20th September, 2010 by Monika Mueller-Kroll
Berlin – Floodwall: two site-specific art installations from New Orleans. Above deck, hand painted flags bring you into the wetlands of Louisiana, bellow deck, the drawers float inside the belly of The Kurier. Composed of 380 drawers that artist Jana Napoli rescued from the debris of Hurricane Katrina, this exhibition will be presented in Berlin from September 10th to October 15th. Installed on the 1920s Kurier, moored at several locations on the Spree, the exhibition will visit different neighborhoods across the city. Floodwall is sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, New Orleans artist Jana Napoli, and the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, presenting the Berlin public with an above and below deck installation murmuring with the voices and stories from New Orleans, as the city confronts yet another disaster.

Five years after Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans, the city is still undergoing a painful rebuilding process. The physical scars of a disaster that cost 1836 lives, caused $90 billion damage, and displaced 1.3 million people are slowly healing; the impact on society, families and livelihoods runs much deeper. Ms. Napoli painstakingly recorded the owner and location of each of the drawers comprising the installation, bringing the stories of everyday citizens affected by the disaster into the exhibition space. The artifacts explore themes of displacement, as well as, return.

Floodwall was first realized at Ground Zero in New York City in 2007, in a configuration of vertical-standing drawers resembling tombstones.  In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, it rose as a wall 8 feet high and 192 feet in length. It was at once a monument of immeasurable loss, a memorial, a sentinel of the past. In Wroclaw, Poland, the Floodwall formed a room that enveloped each spectator in close intimacy with the drawers and their unutterable loneliness of deep mourning.  At all times, Napoli's Floodwall guards against the erasure of ordinary people and the everyday rhythms of life from which great cities are formed. But Floodwall also poses a crucial question about our future: When you have lost everything, what do you decide to put back?

As Napoli was collecting her drawers, Graphic artist Rondell Crier thought of breathing life into them by creating a digital, interactive installation.  He began to archive every drawer, these objects that still held the traces of the small gestures of life that were once their owners.  Napoli and Crier began to work with a small group of others to identify these original owners and to gather their recollections – of their drawers and what they held and thereby, of a way of life that once animated New Orleans and hopefully, will do so again.   These oral histories form an audio component to Napoli's installation and were also integrated into the database.

An Introduction to the artist  - Jana Napoli

Jana Napoli was born and raised in New Orleans and continues to live there. Trained as a painter, Napoli is a mixed-media artist and a creative entrepreneur deeply concerned with civic and community engagement.  In 1988, she founded the internationally acclaimed non-profit arts and social service organization, YA/YA inc. Young Aspirations/Young Artists, who’s mission it is to empower creative young people to become successful adults. She served as its full-time Creative Director for 12 years.

Napoli has exhibited around the world and has received several awards for her work, among them, the Oprah Winfrey “Use your life award” in 2002 and a President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities award in 1999.  Floodwall continues her long-standing dedication to the intersection of art and community-building and also integrates the themes of the unspoken and the unseen that are part of her own artistic preoccupations.

Complementary Programs

Drawer Speaks, a youth outreach program that asks Berlin and Brandenburg school students, as a sign of solidarity with the victims of Katrina and the victims of all natural disasters around the world, to take a cardboard box, imagine that it is a personal drawer, and illustrate (using a marker) five things that one would not want to lose nor would want somebody to find discarded on the street. As contributors, an image of the student and their drawer will be uploaded to the Drawer Speaks project website and interactive Floodwall Map (see the link above).

Carlos Neville is a New Orleans based artist and member of the board of directors of YA/YA Inc. (Young Aspirations/Young Artists). Carlos will organize the Youth Dance Challenge for Solidarity where he will invite young people from across Berlin to take part in street dance workshops culminating in a public performance on the streets of Berlin.

Gentelle Pedescleaux (Ya/Ya 1998) is a youth choreographer and singer.  Since 2001 she has worked with Cultural Elite School of Dance of New Orleans, Louisiana, the YMCA and AmeriCorps of Atlanta, Georgia, where her jobs included teaching dance, mentoring and community building among many other things. Currently she is a residential counsellor for Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baton Rouge.