Flood Barrier by CATHERINE YASS

Flood Barrier by CATHERINE YASSA film commission raising awareness of rising sea levels and urgent environmental changes with screenings at Valence House, the ICA and Turner Contemporary

‘Flood Barrier’ by Catherine Yass is centred around Barking Creek Flood Barrier, which straddles the River Roding where its estuary meets the River Thames. Engineered in 1983, the barrier was originally built to prevent devastating flooding expected to take place every thousand years. However, with East London boroughs now prone to future flooding, the barrier has taken on new critical meaning. The huge guillotine-like structure poised above the water is likely to come down and cut off flooding routinely in coming years, as predicted in a recent environmental study by Climate Central (2021) warning that East London boroughs are now prone to future flooding.

Nominated for the Turner Prize in 2002, London-based artist Yass is widely recognised for her distinctive photographic and film-based work. Her practice disrupts notions of power through the disorientation of the camera and the distortion of colour. With ‘Flood Barrier’ Yass will use this visual language to allow viewers to see the structure and its surroundings from a new perspective, showing the urgency of the environmental and political issues it embodies. The film will be co-produced with Barking & Dagenham students with special educational needs, ensuring that those living close to the barrier are given a voice by the project. 

The film’s premiere will coincide with the 70th anniversary of The Great Flood of 1953, often considered the worst natural disaster Britain experienced during the 20th century. ‘Flood Barrier’ forms part of a wider public programme entitled ‘Breaking Waves’, exploring and raising awareness of the link between our contemporary climate crisis and industrial heritage. 

The film premiered at an outdoor screening at Valence House on Friday 22 September 2022. Additional screenings to take place at the ICA, London, on 14 November and at Turner Contemporary, Margate on 18 November. Booking information will be announced soon.

Exhibition currently on show at Valence House Museum until 21 October 2023. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10am-4pm.

Flood Barrier by Catherine Yass was commissioned by Create London, funded by Art Fund and Arts Council England, with additional support from The Elephant Trust. The associated engagement programme, Breaking Waves, was made possible with the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with additional support from Arts Council England and Art Fund.