Pace Live

John Gerrard Talks to Jasper Sharp

Conversation recorded on Thursday, April 30

Pace artist John Gerrard spoke with Jasper Sharp, Curator for Modern & Contemporary Art at Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum, about the evolution of his work from early experiments in simulation, the large-scale public projects he's currently working on, and the possibilities that exist at the intersection of performance and technology.

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Learn more about John Gerrard.

Jasper Sharp (JS): Good evening!

John Gerrard (JG): Good evening Jasper!

JS: Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening, wherever you are. Welcome to Pace's weekly (opens in a new window) live conversation series. My name is Jasper Sharp. I am the curator for Modern and Contemporary Art at the (opens in a new window) Kunsthistorisches Museum here in Vienna, and the director of the philanthropic organization, (opens in a new window) Phileas. I'm sitting here in my office in Vienna speaking with the artist (opens in a new window) John Gerrard, also in Vienna. As you can see, he is sitting somewhere considerably more grand than me. John, maybe you just begin by telling everyone where you are. This wonderful place.

JG: Hi, Jasper. It is good to be here. Hello to everybody who is listening live on Instagram. I'm in my studio, a new studio in Vienna, which is an old carpenter's guild from the nineteenth century, mid-nineteenth century, about the 1850s. I just moved in last week and the carpenters would show off by doing these kind of carvings. It's this wonderful old space which I'm working in.

JS: Amazing, so when they didn't have enough work to do, they would just sculpt the room they were living in. Fantastic. Well, I've got a massive inferiority complex just to begin this conversation. So, let’s get going. For the next forty-five minutes or so we're going to run through three or four different works of yours over a period of about fifteen years that are all somehow connected to each other.

JG: Okay.

JS: I thought we could begin with an early group of works of yours. The very first works of yours, actually, that I ever saw in 2007 called t (opens in a new window) he Smoke Trees. Maybe you could introduce these to everyone and just give a little bit of an understanding of how you came to this body of work in the first place.

JG: Okay. So, what I'm going to do is I'm going to turn this camera around. This is a work called (opens in a new window) The Smoke Tree and it is a really early work from around about 2005, 2006. I wanted to begin with this because it's one of the first works I made which deals with subjects of smoke. This is a tree which, instead of producing leaves, which would absorb oxygen, it is a tree that is producing carbon dioxide or smoke. It's a kind of a polluter, a bit like we are polluters. In total, there are five smoke trees. This is one of them, and this is another one. They all were based on trees that were near my childhood home in Ireland.

JS: John, just to rewind. When I first stood in front of these works, as a lot of people are doing now, for the first time, I had absolutely no idea what I was looking at. I was looking at something that was somehow from the world of film, somehow from the world of sculpture, somehow from the world of drawing. I had no idea. Maybe talk a little bit about the medium that you're working with to develop these works?

JG: Okay. I'm going to answer that by rewinding to a little bit of my own biography. First of all, I studied sculpture in (opens in a new window) The Ruskin School of Art, it's part of Oxford University. I was an undergraduate there entering the university in 1994. 1994 was an interesting year, technically, because in a funny way the Internet, to my mind, became visible that year. Suddenly early browsers emerged. I entered university as a sculptor that year, but very quickly said that I was particularly interested in computing as an artist. The Ruskin had one tiny little Mac about this size. It was early back. I began to kind of attack that subject of the computing and sculpture but jumping really fast forward, post an MFA in Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago. I only really got my hands on the idea of the virtual as a sculptural medium when I went into a computer science MSC and then ended up in a residency in (opens in a new window) Ars Electronica in Austria. I just wanted to kind of quickly rewind and give that arc. To answer your question about what the Smoke Trees are, I suppose most basically, they are a game engine. It's a virtual world, which you can look around, and you build them in 3-D by hand and then you bring them to life using the same technology that makes games.

JS:  And they exist in the orbit about 365 days a year, there’s night and day. They are sort of their own contained worlds, as it were.

JG: Yeah, I'm just going to play it again as we speak. They are solar scenes. The sun comes up in this scene, travels over and goes down. I describe them as orbital. The camera also travels around these works, typically at walking pace in the later works. But because this is a world, a three-dimensional world, it behaves differently than traditional cinema, traditional video. Again, getting back to the idea of sculpture. This is a three-dimensional scene which you can look at and turn around, as such.

JS: John, how many how many of these did you make?

JG: I made five Smoke Trees and they kept me busy in 2005, 2006, 2007.

JS: I was going to ask, how long would each of them have taken you to make back then?

JG: Couple of months. Each one a couple of months. Actually, when I was looking for online material to do with smoke, I found this picture. Which leads us really to the next big work I think we're going to talk about.

JS: Just to quickly talk about the production of your work at this early stage, 2006, 2007. Who are you working with? You have a modeler working with you. What's the team behind a work like this?

JG: It is typically a core team of a modeler, a 3-D modeler, who will build, say, the tree trunk and branches by hand in 3-D. There is often a programmer of late in the last decade it's been Helmut Bressler who is here in Vienna with me. I suppose one of the core individuals is a producer, in this case for Werner Poetzelberger, who will kind of oversee the entire process and kind of craft these disparate elements into one world, and then we publish it as a piece of software. It's an executable file in the end.

JS: Right. So, maybe we'll move on to that second work. In 2009, a couple of years later, you and I did a (opens in a new window) project together at the Venice Biennale on this wonderful island called Certosa in the lagoon in a boat building warehouse. We showed three works there—you presented three works— (opens in a new window) a pig production unit, (opens in a new window) Oil Stick Work, and this work, the (opens in a new window) Dust Storm. It's this one that I’d love to talk about, because in many ways it follows on really nicely from the Smoke Trees, both in terms of the subject matter, but also the technology and sort of the tricks and the skill that you use to produce it. Could you explain the background of this work to everybody?

JG: The image at the bottom of your screen is an image that I found, which is of a dust storm, part of the Dust Bowl. April 14th, 1935, it's called Black Sunday, which was one of the most chronic, damaging dust storms of the Dust Bowl. I became very interested in the Dust Bowl as a narrative, so I pursued that image all the way to University of— Texas in Austin. I found the image, turned it over, and written on the back was this phrase which has really stuck with me, which is: “Dust storm at Stratford, Texas, April 14th, 1935. 5:45pm, lasting forty-five minutes. Darkest dark I ever experienced.” I became fascinated by this idea that through this ecological disaster that was the Dust Bowl, the public experienced sort of a void of unimaginable darkness.

JS: John, just for people that don't know, what actually caused dust storms? What causes dust storms?

JG: This dust storm that you've seen in front of you, I mean, fundamentally, this dust storm was created by petroleum. Because it was petroleum that powered the plows that plowed up one hundred million acres of the Midwest of America between post-WWI, between say 1920 and 1930. Once the grass cover had been taken away, the dust could just blow. I mean, you have a drought cycle that still cycles on that landscape. That's not the cause of the Dust Bowl.

JS: Right.

JG: The Dust Bowl was produced by a surge of energy from petroleum, which was directed to the landscape and produced this extraordinary catastrophe.

JS: So, you've found this image. What happens then?

JG: This is me in Texas at the bottom half of that picture. You can see Texas as it is now, Dalhart, Texas, as it is now, and above is the historic storm, the black-and-white image of the storm from 1935. I decided around about 2000, and I think I made this piece around 2008, to try and unite the historic storm with the contemporary landscape. What better medium to do that in than the virtual, than in simulation? It became a work called Dust Storm Dalhart, Texas, which I'm going to jump to now. Let me just make this play. It's very subtle. This is a recollection of the dust storm from 1935 on the landscape in Texas as it is now. If I zoom this forward, you can see the storm. This is a video of the piece. This is not a simulation, but the camera orbits around seeing the very flat panhandle landscape. Then you come back eventually to see this almost social sculpture which sits on the landscape.

JS:  I saw this several times in production in your studio, but when I saw it presented on this sort of epic scale in Venice for the first time, what really struck me, which I had absurdly never been fully aware of, is the fact that this storm never, in fact, reaches you. You're never engulfed. In your work, you never experience that darkest dark. It's this pregnant, threatening presence of a storm, but it never actually reaches you. It's always on the verge. What was the decision in that? To sort of keep it at bay, as it were?

JG: I thought of the storm—my recreation of it— as a kind of social sculpture. For me in 2008, I felt that the historic narrative of the Dust Bowl was wrong, and actually, somebody in the comments just mentioned that it was due to over-planting. It was due to over-planting, but the planting happened because of this extraordinary level of plowing —100 million acres in ten years. I wanted to remember the storm as an oil catastrophe, like the Dust Bowl storm was a petroleum disaster. I felt that it was a harbinger of the disasters to come, such as climate change. If I jump back to the storm, it sits—and I'll just zoom a little bit backwards here—it sits on the landscape and it doesn't overwhelm you, but it is a signal or a sign for what is to come. Actually, in the last ten years, these disasters are coming. The dust storm has grown to a global scale and become climate change, and that actually is a very nice lead into Western Flag.

JS: John, wait a second on Dust Storm. What I think is really interesting, seeing this piece in Venice, for example, back in 2009, is that it’s on the time in the Midwest. It sets to the time in the Midwest where this event took place, where the event is taking place. You would come into the into this building in Venice in the morning, on a Venetian morning, and it would be nighttime.

JG: Yes.

JS: The storm would still be there as a dark presence within the darkness. It was only at about 2:00 or 1:00 in the afternoon in Venice that you would have sunrise in the Midwest. It was quite remarkable to realize that it had its own orbit unrelated to where we were. One thing I wanted to talk to you about is, as someone who works in a museum of Old Master paintings, I know that you worked around the (opens in a new window) Kunsthistorisches Museum a lot when you were first generating works like this to look at skies, these epic skies. Is there also something of the Americans, of the (opens in a new window) Ansel Adams aesthetic that has found its way into a work like Dust Storm that you are conscious of?

JG: Well, one of the aspects of the virtual is that you are building in light. You are you are working in light, you're producing light effectively. A lot of what you're producing is light hitting objects, producing image. That is quite a fundamentally painterly process to produce a kind of photo realistic simulation. I look at everything. I've looked at all my heroes of art, from Vermeer all the way through (opens in a new window) Roni Horn and, in a funny way, there's almost a sort of a crystalline precision to the work that I really like, which linked, in a way, Roni Horn with someone like the earlier masters such as Vermeer. But I think one of the things about simulation, which I find in a weird way disappointing, is that it's missing. The virtual is kind of missing from contemporary art and it has this extraordinary potential. I'm just going to, should I jump onto (opens in a new window) Western Flag at this point?

JS: Yeah, maybe I’ll just introduce it quickly. This is a work from 2017. It's seven or eight years after Dust Storm but obviously, there's a lot of the aesthetic and the learning of Dust Storm that's fed into Western Flag. Do you want to talk a little bit, maybe before we get into the work itself, about the commission that led to the creation of this work?

JG: Definitely, yes. Western Flag was commissioned by a TV station, by (opens in a new window) Channel Four in the U.K. They wanted to do something which would address Earth Day in 2017. I worked very closely with John Hay, the Commission Arts Editor, and Martine d'Anglejan-Chatillon, who was my dealer at that time and my gallerist. We sort of hatched this plan to try and make something that would sort of intrude on the public consciousness, in this case through TV. We developed the idea, first of all, of a TV intervention. Secondly, I developed the idea of a smoke flag, which would take something that's invisible—carbon dioxide—and try to give it an image. In this case, a political image. The site that I chose was the site of the very first oil strike in world history at Spindletop in Texas, first major oil strike, the first really big one, which was in 1981 at Spindletop in Texas.

JS: I know that for many of the works you've done, you've traveled to the actual site and documented it scrupulously with thousands of photographs to build up this sort of virtual collage. Did you travel to Spindletop, to document the landscape?

JG: Yes. With all of the works, they are effectively portraits. I go and find this place, and I produce a portrait of it by taking pictures of everything that's within it. I'll just swap back to the work for a second so you can see while I'm talking. This is on the ground what Spindletop looks like now in Texas. It's a post-oil environment, it's a sort of a damaged post-oil environment, but it really looks like that. We spend about a year rebuilding everything within it, again, as a portrait of itself within the virtual, and then it's augmented by this fictitious form, this smoke flag, which again, the endeavor was to try give it...carbon dioxide, which is a risk to society and to ecology, tried to give it a political image. What Channel Four did was they cut it into TV with no announcement over twenty-four hours, a couple of times an hour, and I actually have that.

JS: I think you've got a little clip we can see.

JG: Yeah, so I’ll jump to that. This has sound, so I’ll press play and I'll make sure the sound is on. It takes forty seconds. [CHANNEL FOUR VIDEO PLAYS] That was the cut in. It's silence, and then back to normal. Back to normal programming.

JS: I mean, it's extremely eerie, I have to say, with no announcement. This kind of short burst just punctuating a home improvement program.

JG: I think it was shocking for people.

JS: Yeah. I mean, John, it was also around the time that black flags were being raised in the caliphate in the Middle East, you know?

JG: Well, Channel Four had to really talk to Ofcom, the British Broadcasting Commission about that, because it is a threatening symbol and it was going to cut into Channel Four with no announcement a couple times an hour. Twitter just sort of lit up after it came on. People were like, what just happened on Channel Four?  I mean, in the context of COVID-19, which is an interruption and a pause, it's an interesting analogy to make because I wanted to force people out of their comfort, watching a home decorating show. Suddenly they lose their entertainment and it's this thing they have never seen before. This political image. A flag, which has become something else. The other project, which was really important, and I'm just going to jump back to show to you, was (opens in a new window) Somerset House, where, working with Thomas Dane Gallery, we put up an LED wall in Somerset House, which was there for a week, which you can see here in this image.

JS: And that would be shown day and night. People could walk into the courtyard of Somerset House and they were confronted with this enormous LED wall.

JG: Yes. It was in Somerset House for a week. It was on TV for a day, and it was also live streamed to YouTube for a month, which was actually the most powerful. One of the most powerful things we did was the livestream, because Western Flag became almost a meme. People took it from the livestream and took ownership of it, and they made it their own.

JS: John, one thing I wanted to ask you about. We could talk about it in relation to any of these works, but we'll do it while we're on Western Flag. I remember the first time I saw your work and I thought, okay, what on earth am I looking at? It draws from the world of film very obviously, because it's moving. It's drawing from the world of photography, because while it's moving, it's a frozen moment. The weather is the weather that you documented on that day in that place, it never changes, doesn’t start snowing or raining. It draws on the medium of drawing because you have literally meticulously recreated this. It draws on the medium of painting because of what you've addressed is this very painterly aesthetic. It's sucking in and drawing on all these different media. Yet, what we're left with is something that a lot of people, if they just breezed past this in an art fair or somewhere, something that feels very much like film, sort of video film. When we saw the Smoke Trees at the beginning of this conversation, they were works that visitors or viewers or the owners of the work would manipulate themselves to change the orbit, and so on. At a certain point, you remove that ability for the viewer to manipulate it themselves. You put in motion a very slow, sort of mesmeric orbit to the works, which is something that's now remained in the work. Can you talk a little bit about that shift from the control in the hands of the viewer to control in your hands?

JG: Well, in a funny way, as you have said, the first virtual works people could grab them and look around them, and then that was lost. I let go of that. The reason I let go of that was I began to see technology, particularly simulation, really controlling the world in a way that was invisible to a broader public. By that, I mean the modeling of reality by investment banks, by governments, by the military. Decisions are made on the basis of these models, which then affect the real, but this is occurring in these algorithmic spaces, which I think are broadly invisible to the public. I kind of remove that ability to control the work, because I felt that technology was galloping in, let's just say, the black box space of society, and it was becoming something very powerful very quickly and the public didn't have their hands on it, so I released that ability. If I jump back to look at (opens in a new window) Somerset House again, here you have an LED, here you have the public. The LED is showing a simulation that's unfolding over a year, but you don't stop it. You can't control it. You could if you had a controller, but you don't control it. I think that has to do with my relationship to what I describe as black box computing.

JS: Right. The great thing, obviously, about seeing a work installed in public space like that is added to film, photography, drawing, painting, you certainly have sculpture and you certainly have performative elements as well. Not only is your work itself performative, but certainly you bring the relationship of the figure and the viewer into direct dialogue with the work. Do you want to maybe talk about the next public iteration of this work, which was actually just last year here at (opens in a new window) Desert X in the Coachella Valley in Southern California? How did the presentation of this work in a completely different, barren, wild landscape....How did this work read for you there compared to that urban version of it?

JG: That is a very interesting question. Really with Desert X, in Palm Springs, the Western Flag kind of went West. It went to California, to the land of dreams, to California. Also, California with kind of strange extremes, the extremes of California, where on the one hand you've got extraordinary problems with water and on the other hand, futures have been invented there. Be it Tesla, or even Google, or all these companies that are emerging and that have emerged in that part of the world. Working with Desert X, we placed an LED wall in the American landscape and in the landscape of the West of America. It completely transformed it because here you have atmospherics. Here you have the sun coming down. Here you have the rain and the wind. It was an extraordinary thing to do. This picture you see the kind of sculptural component of the work. So really, to put the work into the landscape, it was an extraordinary opportunity, I have to say. It brought out some of the more sublime components of the work, I suppose you could say. It also brought this subject of carbon dioxide really to the American landscape from Britain for instance.

JS: Right, and did it appear any less threatening there? I mean, I think the Channel Four sort of guerrilla interruption is about the most threatening version of this. Did it feel very sinister there on the landscape and very sort of ominous? Or did it have a sort of beauty to it all of a sudden?

JG: That's a good question. I think this brings us to this idea of the public domain, because this was a wall. The principle audience for it was from the highway. You have the highway coming into Palm Springs and this was in the desert beside the highway. What was beautiful for me is that people pulled off the highway—families, people who were working in Palm Springs, who really would be unlikely to enter an art museum, I think. Let's just say ordinary people, working people, pulled off the highway, walked up to this thing and were like, what is this? What is this? You know, it has no frame. It looks like you've cut a hole in the scene basically.

JS: Right. I mean, what sort of information was someone getting if they were getting out of car?

JG: The title. The title was there on a sign for Desert X. I saw kids saying to the parents, what is this? I would say if I was to make a statement, as part of this Instagram Live for Pace, I would say that my commitment is to the public domain. It's to put simulations into the public domain. Because there you have collisions with kids, with such broad publics, and I love that. It's so motivating for me.

JS: John, this is something I'd like to explore a little bit for the next chapter of this conversation. We are living in a very, very, very strange moment in the world. A lot of people in our world—in the art world—are thinking about how we are going to reemerge into the world post-lockdown. A lot of the ideas that are being floated do surround notions of public art, because if we can no longer cram 400 people into a gallery and do large gatherings, at least for the next few months, why don't we bring art to people, art into public space? There have been a lot of interesting articles and interviews and ideas floated in the last couple of weeks about this and it's something that's definitely gaining momentum. I think it's a very good thing for us all to be thinking about. You've shown a number of works in public space recently. (opens in a new window) Solar Reserve you showed outside the (opens in a new window) Lincoln Center in New York, you showed at (opens in a new window) LACMA. What is it about your work in particular that you think lends itself so well to this context? Because film and video, for example, has not thrived necessarily in public art over the years, we get more used to seeing it in galleries and museums. Why do you think people have been approaching you to mount these large LED screens with your work on it?

JG: That is something that I have been thinking about a lot. I would say that I am producing worlds and producing simulated worlds. They may look a bit like a film or like a video, but actually they come from a completely different history. They come from a history of military simulation, like flight simulation, battlefield simulation. They have very little to do with film. I'm actually just going to swap back around and talk over it, because I think it's nice to see this [Desert X] when I'm speaking. But for some reason, these worlds are cutting into the world. They're forcing themselves into the world in this way, which video and film are not. I think it has to do with the fact that this is world-making, and as somebody has just said in the comments, they're portals. It's a narrative, but a different kind of narrative than you get in film. It's one story, in this case of a flag which is made of smoke, which is very specific to the medium. But then this flag is in a solar orbit of a year. If you came across this scene in Palm Springs at night, it is nighttime, it's dark. I think critically you can do a better job of this than I can, but somehow these virtual worlds, these simulations are cutting a place in the world for themselves that's different from film.

JS: John, coming back to the slightly old-fashioned world that I inhabit at the Kunsthistorisches, it's no different than the idea of putting a painting on a wall for people in the sixteenth century. It's taking a lot of that very basic gesture and the frameless quality is also part of what I think makes this so remarkable. Let's move on from Western Flag to two new works that nobody has seen yet, which you are preparing, and we can give people a little sneak preview. Two of the works are going to be shown later this year at the (opens in a new window) Galway International Arts Festival in Ireland. One of them is then going to go on next year and 2021 to the (opens in a new window) Biennale in Gwangju in South Korea. Maybe you could just introduce these two works, because they're very connected and they also keep us in public space for the time being.

JG: This is a sneak preview, only for you guys and our listeners. I've worked for the last couple of years on a project which is called (opens in a new window) Mirror Pavilion, and I'm going to show you a render of that Mirror Pavilion. This is mirror-polished metal and we put this object, this cube, into the landscape in Ireland, in this case in Galway. As you said, Jasper, for Galway International Arts Festival, but part of what's called (opens in a new window) Galway 2020, which is the (opens in a new window) European Capital of Culture in 2020. If you walk up to this cube, you see the landscape on three sides, and you see yourself as a consumer of art as such. Then on the front is this weird memory, this folk memory, of a leaf-covered figure, a green woman—they're called Green Men, but I call them Green Women because in my work it is actually a green woman—and this figure is performing. It's a simulation derived from motion capture and it performs a lament for a heating world. Let me just move forward and show you this. This is the character, the leaf-covered figure who is lamenting, she's grieving for a heating world. This performance is produced by a dancer, Finola Cronin, who is performing here, as you can see. And that suit that she's wearing is sending the information back to the simulation and producing this work eventually. This is part one, which is the leaf-covered figure, and part two is a different figure, which is a straw covered figure. They're all objects from folk memory.

JS: This is a historical photograph we're looking at?

JG: Yeah. This is from the collection of Galway University and these are figures covered in straw. I'm interested in these figures because they are humans embedded in a food landscape, and I'm fascinated by what that means. Why submerge yourself in a food landscape, straw or leaves as such?

JS: And John, the leaf-covered figure is something that more people will be familiar with, I have a sort of pagan association in my mind immediately with the leaf covered figure. Tell me about the straw covered figures. What were they to symbolize? Was it something to do with the solstices or the seasons?

JG: These are farmers and they are becoming anonymous. They're losing their human identity. They are wearing what is really a symbol for the sun. Straw in folk knowledge is a symbol for the sun. It's a sun symbol, and if you see the tops of their hats are four pointed, they're woven into four points, which is symbolic of the four seasons of the year. I don't fully understand what the straw boys were doing.

JS: When did they make an appearance?

JG: Well, this is photographed in the 1950s.

JS: But I mean, what time of year? Probably in the summer, I guess?

JG: Well no, I mean, any time of year because straw is stored all year. But they would turn up at weddings and be badly behaved and steal the bride. I think fundamentally they are to do with fertility, but they're to do with an exchange with the landscape. Let me jump to the next thing, because this is really important. Here we have remade the straw figure in 2019, this is in Dublin with a group of people who made this piece with me. This is a peek into the finished work. This is motion capture. A wonderful dancer called Ursula Robb transferred to a virtual figure, this corn figure, and she is performing a solar wheel, which is a very old symbol for the sun. All of this will be placed on a pair of LED walls and a pair of mirror-polished pavilions opening in 2020 in Ireland. It's the next really big project, which is coming up.

JS: Amazing. I mean, I know another one of your great heroes is Bruce Nauman and I feel him traipsing through his studio, mapping the studio.

JG: Bruce Nauman. Yeah, Absolutely.

JS: And John, it's the latter of those two works which is going to travel on to Gwangju, to South Korea.

JG: Corn Work, which is the piece involving the straw figures, will go to the Gwangju Biennale, which is now rescheduled for early 2021—Natasha Ginwala and Defne Ayas curating.

JS: Right. We're looking forward to that very much. (opens in a new window) Phileas, that I help run, is very proud to be a co-producer of that work. So, thrilled to see that. John, we've hit the forty-minute mark. We've got about five more minutes of people's love and attention. Before we go, I think we can't leave without talking a little bit about the very strange situation that the world finds itself in at the moment. It's one of those very rare moments in our lifetimes where just about everything changes and we don't know whether it's changed forever, or it's changed temporarily. I noticed that quite a few of the things that I've been looking at over the last months, listening to, reading, watching, suddenly, all of a sudden, from one day to another, appeared to me to be completely and utterly irrelevant. And other things—art, music, books, poems—came rushing forward and felt urgent and vital and necessary. Your work very much falls into that latter category for me. How are you dealing with everything? How are you processing everything that's going on? How is it changing your working process and, the six-million-dollar question, how do you anticipate that you and all of us are going to reemerge into this post lockdown world?

JG: First of all, I have not been in the same place for this long in twenty years. I have not been in one place. I've been working in my studio for eight weeks. If you work as a contemporary artist now, you are in a global conversation. It just is part of the picture. You are invited...I mean, it's a privilege and it's a wonderful thing, but to show in Gwangju. Pierre Huyghe did an extraordinary (opens in a new window) project in Japan in Okayama last year. It is incredible to go there, and suddenly, it all stops. So, I am shocked. I'm profoundly shocked. I think I am a little bit in shock and yet, acknowledging some privilege because, I obviously have representation with Pace and with Thomas Dane and I have resources that I can draw on. But it is powerful to stop and to feel and to think because we can throw away a lot of concerns by traveling. When I'm packing, I'm thinking about packing. When I'm turning up at an opening, that's what I'm thinking about. I have to think and feel here, and it's been hard. I think hypermobility is maybe a little addictive. So, that's stopped. As to what's going to happen next, I'm pretty worried. I think this is a big sea change in the full sense of that word, and I just am trying to prepare myself for that sea change.

JS: What about some silver linings of the situation? The chance to spend a sustained period of time with your team. I know you sort of went into quarantine together with your modeler and your producer, so you were able to keep working. Surely in terms of the preparation for future works I know there's a couple of other works in the pipeline. There must have been some silver linings in terms of the quality of time you've been able to put together over the last few weeks and months.

JG: Yeah, we're finishing a monster of a work, Corn Work you've just seen is four seasons, four characters, four performances. I mean, we've been working on it for years. That's been a gift. I think that is a silver lining for me, but I must think more broadly, socially, and I am worried for those who are working very directly in restaurants for tips and such things. I just can't get away from this. You know, it's scary. I personally cannot not admit to being fearful right now, and I carry through on these commissions for the time being. September is an unknown. And all my exhibitions are canceled. Everything is postponed and canceled. It's a strange, very weird time.

JS: It's been a strange time for all of us. We've been cutting our own hair or having our hair cut for us by very non-professional. I have a little snip on my ear to attest to that from my dear wife. It's been a strange time, but I have a strange confidence in this situation. I think it's shown the strength of a great deal of things. It's exposed all sorts of fault lines politically and socially. It's very much split society in ways that are deeply unfortunate. Having said that, I have seen great things in people and in systems and in structures. I have a feeling that if we can get through this, we're going to come out the other end. We need to we need to support every single restaurant, coffee shop, everything we can possibly keep alive, we need to keep with us for the journey. But I have a strange confidence. I'm going to play the confident card. I know you do as well. We would be strange not to be fearful because it would be irresponsible almost not to be fearful, but I feel there are good things if we can hang in there and ride out the storm. John, it's always a total pleasure to talk to you. I miss you. I look forward to seeing you. We normally have scrambled eggs about every three weeks somewhere in a coffee house in Vienna. I'm looking forward to doing that again sometime soon.

JG: That's weird, I haven't seen you in two months.

JS: I know, but you are one of the people that makes all of this worthwhile. So, keep going. We need you. We miss you. You're a great artist, and I would say thank you to Pace for giving us this platform this evening. We wish everyone who listened in all the best. Stay safe. Be well. Be healthy. We'll catch up with you again very soon.

JG: Thank you, everybody. So nice you came and joined us.

JS: Thanks, John. All the best.

JG: Bye.

  • Pace Live — John Gerrard Talks to Jasper Sharp, May 18, 2020