Western Flag (Spindletop, Texas) 2017

21 – 27 Apr 2017
Edmond J. Safra
Fountain Court

A large-scale art installation by artist John Gerrard in Somerset House’s The Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court on the occasion of World Earth Day. 

Marking World Earth Day, the world’s largest environmental movement, John Gerrard: Western Flag (Spindletop, Texas) 2017 will stand as a symbol of climate change and modern society’s dependence on oil.

Commissioned by Channel 4 for Somerset House, renowned artist John Gerrard has created a virtual simulation of a flag formed of endlessly emitting trails of thick black smoke. Presented on a massive LED screen, it is the first solo large-scale installation in Somerset House’s The Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court since 2012 and the first public showing of Gerrard’s original artwork.

The flag will fly silently in a virtual replica of Spindletop, Texas, the birthplace of the modern oil industry. The 1901 ‘Lucas Gusher’ produced more oil in one day than the rest of the world’s oilfields combined at the time, though now lies barren and depopulated, the original deposits long exhausted. This installation will precisely parallel the sunrises, sunsets and shadows of the real-life Spindletop, reflecting the changing Texan landscape in real-time.

The live presentation of John Gerrard: Western Flag (Spindletop, Texas) 2017 will coincide with Channel 4’s Man Made Planet season, which explores the impact humanity is having on Earth.  Channel 4 will broadcast the artwork in short bursts that will abruptly interrupt the normal flow of transmission over the course of entire day and night on 22 April (World Earth Day).

Looking deceptively like film or video, Gerrard’s virtual worlds are made using real-time computer graphics and are often painstakingly accurate, moving-image portraits of locations that speak to the way the modern world is changing. His work has been exhibited around the world, including the recent Solar Reserve in the plaza of New York’s Lincoln Center.

The installation is supported by the Climate Change Collaboration.