Floodwall (installation)

Floodwall, an installation by Jana Napoli, is composed of drawers salvaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005.[1]

National Museum, Wroclaw, Poland. July-Aug 2010. Photo by Philip Oeschli.

In 2005, two months after Hurricane Katrina and the collapse of the levee system, Napoli collected debris from the storm. She retrieved 750 drawers from dressers, kitchen cabinets, desks and bureaus.[2] The empty drawers were cleaned, and the addresses of the houses were marked on the back.[3] Napoli stated that "Floodwall was made in an attempt to give voice to the silence of a city in ruin and a people in diaspora."[citation needed]

The contents that remained were then photographed. The resulting objects along with the recorded oral histories make up the installation.[4] Floodwall poses the question to its onlookers: what price are we willing to pay for the protection of the intimacy of our households? [5]


From Floodwall's first construction in 2007, Napoli has installed it in multiple ways. Sometimes installed as a monumental wall, Floodwall stands eight feet tall and stretches as long as 192 feet.[6]

Floodwall has been displayed on the floor like tombstones in a cemetery, sometimes functioning as a memorial and other times a room that envelops the spectator.[7] The installation has also been used as a setting for collaborative theater performances involving singing and dance.

Oral HistoryEdit

Drawers and Personal Stories: part of the exhibition is a collection of recorded oral histories from the original drawer owners. This gathering of these oral histories is an ongoing project that assembles audio recordings—interviews. A selection of these recordings may be heard here:[8] The list of drawer owners may be viewed here:[8]

List of installationsEdit

• New York, New York- January 4 – February 9, 2007. World Financial Center

• Baton Rouge, Louisiana- July 13 – October 13, 2007. Louisiana State Museum

• Austin, Texas- February 16 – May 25, 2008 Blanton Art Museum

• Cincinnati, Ohio- August 28 – September 14, 2008. Clifton Cultural Arts Center

• New Orleans, Louisiana- November 1, 2008 – January 18, 2009. On Piety, Prospect 1 Biennial

• New Orleans, Louisiana- April 17, 2009 – July 12, 2009. Previously On Piety, an auxiliary exhibition of Prospect One Contemporary Arts Center

• Bremerhaven, Germany- February 2, 2009 - May 10, 2009. "Nach der Flut die Flucht- New Orleans Die Ausgewanderte Stadt/The Flight After the Flood- New Orleans The City Left Behind." Deutsches Auswandererhaus/German Emigration Center

• Wroclaw, Poland- July 14, 2010 – September 5, 2010. National Museum, Wrocław

• Houston, Texas- September 10 - October 23, 2010. Understanding Water and Before (During) After, Photographers Respond to Katrina, Diverse Works Art Space

• Berlin, Germany- September 10, 2010 – October 15, 2010. On Board of the Kurier Ship" A video of the exhibition may be found here: [1]

• New Orleans, LA- December 3, 2011. Floodwall Cremation


On December 3, 2011, all 700+ drawers were cremated on the banks of the Mississippi River at Algiers Point in New Orleans, LA.[9]

Floating on FireEdit

Since the December 3, 2011 cremation of the Floodwall installation, Floodwall and its cremation lives on in an art documentary entitled, Floating on Fire, by the studio ManifiestaFilms out of Wroclaw, Poland and produced by ManifiestaFilms and Floodwall artist, Jana Napoli. Floating on Fire made its screening debut at the 2015 New Orleans Film Festival.

The film will be shown next in the New Horizons International Film Festival in Wroclaw, Poland.[10]


  1. ^ Ryzik, Melena (5 January 2007). "Spare Times-Floodwall". The New York Times. New York.
  2. ^ Mueller-Kroll, Monika (20 September 2010). "New Orleans 'Floodwall' Exhibit Comes to Berlin". NPR. Berlin, Germany.
  3. ^ University of Rochester (2011). "The Cultural Visualization of Hurricane Katrina". Invisible Culture. University of Rochester (16): 80–87. Retrieved 25 December 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Fleming, Eileen (5 December 2011). "Algiers Bonfire Fueled by Hurricane Katrina Art". WWNO. New Orleans.
  5. ^ "All Aboard". SugarHigh. SugarHigh. 7 October 2010. Retrieved 7 October 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ MacCash, Doug (9 July 2009). "Doug MacCash reviews "Previously on Piety" at the Contemporary Arts Center". The Times Picayune. New Orleans.
  7. ^ U.S. Department of State (14 July 2010). "Exhibition: Floodwall at the National Museum Wroclaw". Consulate General of the United States Krakow Poland. U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on 15 October 2011. Retrieved 14 July 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ a b "Drawers and Personal Stories". Floodwall Project. Floodwall Project.
  9. ^ "Algiers Point Holiday Bonfire Set for Saturday, December 3". The New Orleans Times Picayune NOLA.com. NOLA.com. 17 November 2011. Retrieved 18 November 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ "Security Check Required". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 2016-06-11.

External linksEdit