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Photos: Matthias Ziegler
Text: Kimberly Bradley

 

 

 

 

John Gerrard grew up in Ireland. His mother was an environmental activist. While still a student, he began to explore the potential offered by digital simulation. 

GERRARD´S WORK DELVES INTO THE POWERS AND INFLUENCES THAT DRIVE OUR WORLD   BOTH VISIBLE AND CONCEALED.

Using sophisticated digital simulation technology normally used for gaming, his pieces expose and comment on nodes and structures of power, trace time- and energy-based processes, and are often on view in public spaces, as well as in museums.

 

 

 

 

John Gerrard is concerned. He’s concerned about the power that originally drove modernity. He’s concerned about the material that drives us today   oil   and what alternatives might exist. The 43-yearold artist grew up in Ireland, the son of an environmental activist, and became intrigued with digital techniques and potentialities during art school. A later stint as an artist-in-residence at Ars Electronica in Linz forged ties to Austria. For the past decade, Gerrard has been creating art within the game engine with a Vienna- based programming team. The resulting works are eerily detailed simulated realities that comment upon, expose and critique today’s underlying power structures, and are often on view in public space.

In a sleek storefront studio overlooking a park in Vienna’s sixth district, nomad spoke to Gerrard about his evocative artworks the power of petroleum, and how our very reality is distorted by the fuel we use   but what alternatives might be in store.

 

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KIMBERLY BRADLEY

Oh, this is lovely (indicating the cheese, hearty bread, and fruits Gerrard has set out on his studio table).

 

JOHN GERRARD

This Bergkäse (mountain cheese) is the best in Austria.

 

And this is wonderful, too (an LED work stands like a lightbox on the table behind the bread; on its screen is a hypnotic image of a gasoline rainbow on moving water. In the image are reflections of trees, a riverbank, hints of the sky–like all of Gerrard’s images and environments, it’s a simulation based on coded algorithms). What is it?

 

JOHN GERRARD

This is part of a series called Flags. About 14 years ago I’d become interested in gasoline on water. The exquisite rainbows; patches of color sitting in the street where gasoline has leaked out. Embedded in the petroleum condition is this beauty. But despite gasoline’s allure and beauty, it’s toxic. It’s so dangerous. It just struck me as an interesting metaphor to work with.

How did this metaphor become transformed into a digital artwork?

 

JOHN GERRARD

I took photographs of gasoline on water and I asked my programmer, Helmut Bressler, whether he could look at it algorithmically. He made a basic simulation of water using a thin-film refraction algorithm, a solution from physics for modelling reality. We decided to choose four major continental basins   the Danube in Europe, the Amazon in South  America, the Nile in Africa, and Yangtze in Asia. I travelled to each river, discovered a site on the bank of each, documented that site, the colour of the water, the motion   each work is linked to a very particular place. We worked on it for several months and this is the result. It’s virtual; an algorithmic simulation of millions of rays of light hitting a thin film sitting on the water.

 

It’s poetic, and hypnotic.

 

JOHN GERRARD

This one is the Danube, which really is blue. Each river has its own colour. And gasoline reflects a specific spectrum. It’s a metallic, shiny look.

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