Western Flag artwork (c) John Gerrard
Western Flag

Marking World Earth Day

02 May 2017

Explore John Gerrard's Earth Day takeover of the Somerset House Instagram account.

The world’s largest environmental movement, World Earth Day was celebrated at Somerset House with John Gerrard: Western Flag (Spindletop, Texas) 2017. The large scale art installation was presented in The Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court from 21 - 27 April 2017, standing as a symbol of climate change and modern society’s dependence on oil.

John Gerrard, Western Flag (Spindletop, Texas) 2017. Installation view, Somerset House, London. Photo: Damian Griffiths

"The Lucas Gusher on Spindletop, Texas in 1901. More oil flowed from this well than all fields in the US at that time combined. This can be considered the birth of the modern oil age, if not modernity itself."

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"Spindletop, Texas 1903. Within a year an 'oil city' sprang up to exploit the new super abundant power of American petroleum. I think of this scene as a premonition of the later oil cities, New York, Chicago and on to Dubai et al." 

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"Spindletop, Texas as it stands today in 2017. Exhausted, abandoned and derelict. Some last rusted derricks extract a mixture of sea water and oil. End of the oil age. A scene both ruined and ruinous." 

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"An iridescent gleam of gasoline of water indicates the allure of petroleum reality. Effortless super power but deeply toxic for the natural world. Ease and comfort for humans, catastrophe for all other life forms. Globally we burn just under 100 million barrels of oil per day these days and demand is only rising."

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"The great invisible of petroleum reality is carbon dioxide, rising steadily in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution. Think of it as our social excrement, which now overwhelms the human project. A new flag attempts to give this invisible gas, this international risk, an image. A new symbol for the anthropocene."

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#somersethousetakeover | @johngerrard.inst

Commissioned by Channel 4 for Somerset House, renowned artist John Gerrard created a virtual simulation of a flag formed of endlessly emitting trails of thick black smoke. 

The Making of Western Flag | John Gerrard On His Artwork For Earth Day