A NEW exhibition telling the fascinating story of the first Briton to swim the English Channel opens this month.
Fabrica art gallery in Duke Street, Brighton is hosting artist Vanessa Daws’ exhibition At Home In The Water from 15 October to 27 November.
It will tell the history and story of sea swimming in Brighton alongside that of Mercedes Gleitze who is the artist’s inspiration for the new artwork.
Born in Brighton in 1900, Mercedes made her name in October 1927 when she swam the English Channel in 15 hours and 15 minutes on her eighth attempt.
After that success, Mercedes focused on breaking new records by swimming the Strait of Gibraltar, the Dardanelles and around the Isle of Man.
At the time of her retirement in 1932, her endurance swimming record was 46 hours.
In January 2022, a blue plaque was unveiled at the birthplace of Mercedes at 124 Freshfield Road, Brighton to a large and grateful crowd of sea swimmers and other supporters.
At Home In The Water is an element of an international project called Swimming A Long Way Together, a three-year, multi-venue art project produced by Vanessa Daws and curator Rosie Hermon.
The project follows and celebrates Mercedes Gleitze’s remarkable endurance swims in Ireland, Northern Ireland and England, connecting with local swimming groups and raising awareness of their sporting achievements with each event.
Swimming A Long Way Together is a project that grew out of Vanessa Daw’s own long distance swims which include the 22km Lough Mask in County Galway.
It was while Vanessa was preparing to attempt to swim the English Channel in 2019 that she first came across the Mercedes story.
These first-hand swimming experiences are always the starting point for their projects.
Vanessa said: “When I pass a body of water, be it a pond, lake, river or ocean, I have a hard time resisting the urge to swim.
“My work explores where this urge to swim long distances comes from, the desire to swim for hours without stopping.
“Is it the sheer thrill of the unknown, feeling the water on our skin, the cold through our bodies, adjusting our breathing, and feeling that we exist?”
Vanessa has collaborated with artist and musician Ruth Clinton to create a new film installation.
The exhibition gives visitors a unique insight into the experience of long-distance swimming.
Floating above and below the waterline, the film invites the viewer along with the swimmer to wonder what strange fascination the sea holds for us, why we choose to dive into it and feel compelled to try it navigate.
Liz Whitehead, director at Fabrica, said: “Part of the film is documentary footage of Vanessa swimming a marathon.
“Vanessa swims non-stop while Ruth plays the pump organ from a boat, accompanying her on her journey.
“The work of the pumping organ, the hours of depressing its pedals, mimics the kicking legs of the swimmer.
“Her music, like the movements of the swimmer, is created through physical exertion and regular inhalation.”
https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/22808720.new-fabrica-exhibition-tells-story-brightons-mercedes-gleitze/?ref=rss The new Fabrica exhibition tells the story of Brighton’s Mercedes Gleitze