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Screen dream piece beats the competition
The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University Sport and Modern Art Oxford commissioned John Gerrard to make this artwork, as part of the London 2012 Festival. Gerrard composed it during his Oxford-based Legacy Fellowship. The result is a large- scale cinematic installation in Oxford’s old power station, the industrial interior of the disused building providing a complementary gritty background. This is emphasised by the access to the piece: via walkways of simple plywood, temporary staircases and bland raked seating. The piece brings together what Gerrard describes as the “psychosis of competition”, the attrition of war and of competitive athletics, where the impact on each individual as part of a wider team is immense. The piece builds up into a hypnotic and seemingly endless sequence, punctuated by subtle changes, such as the movement of a lone figure in grey (who appears at times a trigger and at others a control), the release of a smoke-screen, the arrival of helicopters and the pace of the athletes. Gerrard sets the whole in the desert landscape of Djibouti, on a mud flat fractured and crazed by the heat of the sun and possessing an iridescent sheen thanks to the high silica content of the mud. This is where the US military do actually train. The landscape is, however, not what it seems, as the image is derived from several thousand photographs edited together.
Gerrard presents two eight-figure teams of athletes, the reds and the blues, each composed of multiple images of the same real athlete, using 3D scanning to create and animate the figures. These oscillate in a perpetual training loop. The runners continue to the point of exhaustion when they fall into a series of rest positions creating interludes of still and sculpture. Fascinating, engaging and frustrating the installation is at the Old Power Station, Arthur St, Oxford and continues daily until Friday.