Skip to main content
News_

Literary classic given artistic reworking in Mapping the Drowned World

28 September 2015
Sci-fi novel at the heart of new exhibition

Fans of JG Ballard's cult sci-fi novel The Drowned World can experience its post-apocalyptic themes in visual form at a new exhibition, Mapping the Drowned World, opening at SCA Galleries next week.

Tracey Clement with her work ‘Post-Premonitionism 2’, part of Mapping the Drowned World. Photo: Isobel Markus

Six Australian artists including Bulgari award-winning painter Jon Cattapan have joined forces to give vision to the dystopic opus, penned in 1962 against the backdrop of the Cold War’s end-of-the-world fears.

Set in the distant future, at a time when global warming has submerged London into a tropical wasteland overrun by carnivorous reptiles, The Drowned World reads as an eerily prescient warning of our current climate crisis, said exhibition coordinator Tracey Clement.

"Despite being published more than 50 years ago, in an uncanny way The Drowned World seems to have predicted climate change," said Ms Clement, who put the exhibition together as part of her PhD at the University of Sydney.

Thanks to the book, I've known my entire adult life that humanity may indeed self-destruct, but with patient omnipotence the rest of the natural world will somehow survive.
Tracey Clement

Working across media, the artists have teased out their own interpretations of the influential novel. The exhibition includes paintings by Jon Cattapan, sculptures by South Australian artist Roy Ananda, a video by Kate Mitchell, photographs by Janet Tavener and digital collages by Gosia Wlodarczak.

Ms Clement's own contribution to the show is a starkly beautiful sculptural installation, which allows to audiences walk through a surreal ruined city landscape of steep mountain peaks made from salt and rusted steel. Each spike took four months to create, and stands up to two metres tall.

"By having the peaks at eye level, it stares you straight in the face. It reminds you that this catastrophe didn’t just happen by itself," said Ms Clement.

"Many people are overwhelmed by climate change; we're bombarded with these facts and figures and it all points to disaster. It's a bit too much to take in.

"But what art can do – in the same way as novels – is bring you to those same conclusions but by a different method, in more engaging and accessible ways. Science fictions can be just as educational and inspirational as science facts." 

Mapping the Drowned World will be presented at SCA Galleries from 8 to 31 October 2015.

Exhibition details

What: Mapping the Drowned World
When: Opening reception: Wednesday 7 October, 6pm to 8pm. Exhibition runs from 8 to 31 October, opening hours 11am to 5pm
Where: SCA Galleries, Building 29, Sydney College of the Arts, Balmain Road, Rozelle
Cost: Free

Related articles

21 June 2016

Pioneering technology rolls out to track the Australian indoor climate

The University of Sydney’s IEQ (Indoor Environmental Quality) lab, in partnership with several major corporations, is rolling out ground-breaking technology that will track the indoor climate in the largest survey of Australian workplaces.

21 June 2016

Creation of a leading centre for visual art and design

The University of New South Wales, the University of Sydney and the National Art School have been exploring opportunities since last year for a closer association between the three institutions, with the aim of strengthening the delivery of visual art and design education in NSW.

05 December 2016

Is the Australian housing market at risk of a collapse?

Understanding if a ‘housing bubble’ exists in the Australian housing market is the new focus of a University of Sydney complex systems research team.

15 December 2016

Composer strikes a chord with people living with dementia

A University of Sydney student and composer, Cyrus Meurant, has collaborated with an Australian aged-care facility on a unique recording project that will be music to the ears of dementia sufferers.

19 October 2016

Meet our seven Bradfield finalists

The annual scholarship was set up in recognition of the legacy of John Bradfield, the celebrated engineer and University of Sydney alumnus whose grand ideas and vision drove two of Sydney’s most transformative projects: the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the city’s underground railway system.

06 October 2016

Thinking outside the box in designing affordable housing

Housing affordability is a big problem in Australia. A new exhibition looks at housing projects that could offer ways to reduce housing costs.

12 October 2016

University of Sydney assists talks at Habitat III for a New Urban Agenda

Addressing the vulnerability of countries to climate change and rapid urban growth in the Pacific is the goal of a side event chaired by the University of Sydney’s Associate Professor Paul Jones at Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador, this month.

20 October 2016

Flying Ubers a vision of Lendlease Bradfield scholarship winner

At the Future Transport Summit 2016 in Sydney earlier this year Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said 'self‐driving Ubers are the future'. "But what if Ubers are in the air and not on the street?” proclaims architecture student Kate Zambelli.

21 October 2016

Con tour brings centuries of music to regional NSW

Up to 30 tertiary musicians from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music will head west on a three-day road tour of the Blue Mountains, Bathurst and Orange to bring the music of Handel, Vivaldi and Bach and other classical music greats to regional New South Wales next week.

26 October 2016

A good dose of music promotes good health

Researchers from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music explain how music promotes good health within different Australian communities at the University’s Charles Perkins Centre on Friday, 28 October.