John Gerrard, X. Laevis (Spacelab) 2017, 2017, simulation, Edition of 4 + 2 APs © John Gerrard

John Gerrard

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Photography by Kris Graves, courtesy the artist.

Breaching the divisions between portrait, landscape and history painting, generating moving images that no longer belong to ‘time-based media’, rethinking the monumentalism of land art in the age of Google Earth, and now exploring an expanded arena of choreography and performance, the innovative form of John Gerrard’s work keeps pace with the subtle complexity of its subject-matter.

In the contemporary world, simulations are no longer just secondhand copies, but are increasingly both engine and autopilot of leisure, economy, politics and warfare. Gerrard’s work offers us portraits of this world through the prism of its own technological medium: using the very software that enables the operations of entertainment, industry and warfare.

Gerrard has developed a sophisticated method of trans-historical collage, overlaying terrain, figure, image and gesture captured from real bodies and sites using satellite data, intensive photographic documentation, 3D scanning and motion capture. The resulting works are sculptures that exist in virtual space, within environments that include complex algorithmic choreographies, multiple moving viewpoints, and realistic cycles of day and night that unfold in ‘real time’ over the course of an entire year.

Such works, evidently, can never be experienced as a whole. In each case, what you see is one of many possible projections of a highly complex data set, every aspect of which is continually calculated and rendered in real time. These moving images have never existed as a time series: each frame is produced and rendered dynamically, and instantly discarded. The nature of such images, and the emerging visual culture they belong to, remains an open question for art history and theory.

Despite the high-tech production, the restraint Gerrard brings to these bleak scenes, and the resigned complacency and stereotyped behaviors of their players, recall Beckett’s minimal theatre of exhaustion more than Hollywood CGI movies. Each of the works sets in place an algorithmic set of conditions, which are then left to unfold within the time and space of the virtual world. The viewer—a technologically-mediated subject, scanning the scene at a distance, through the virtual cameras that orbit the scene—is left to piece together the logic of their movements and the nature and meaning of the performance.

Text by Robin Mackay
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John Gerrard, Western Flag (Spindletop Texas), 2017, 2017 simulation, Edition of 4 + 2 APs © John Gerrard


Installation view, John Gerrard, X. Laevis (Spacelab) 2017, 2017, simulation, Edition of 4 + 2 APs © John Gerrard


John Gerrard, Lufkin (near Hugo, Colorado) 2009, 2009, simulation, dimensions variable, Edition of 6 + 2 APs © John Gerrard