Going down with all Flags flying

In every print edition, topos publish a Big Picture that is particularly impressive because of its aesthetics and the message behind it. topos 107 is showing John Gerrard’s installation “Western Flag” in the desert of the Coachella Valley.

Destruction. Suffering. Death. These are the associations that come to mind when watching the art installation “Western Flag” by John Gerrard. Located in the desert of Coachella Valley, the staggering beauty of the surroundings doesn’t let spectators shake the uneasy feeling that creeps up their spine.

The installation consisting of an LED-wall instantaneously evokes negative emotions. It shows a digitally generated live stream of a flagpole that emits black smoke cumulating in a cloudy, black flag. The flag is situated at the “Lucas Gusher,” which is the site of the world’s first major oil find: the 1901 Spindletop. Over the course of nine days after its discovery, millions of liters of oil a day blew into the sky before it came under control. It marked the beginning of the petroleum age.

Now, over a century later, we are struggling with the consequences of that golden era. With a change of state of matter from liquid to gas, Gerrard mirrors the oil find to draw attention and give visibility to the never-ending stream of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere every day – and the fact that it is nowhere near under control.

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The Big Picture for the installation “Western Flag” can be found in topos 107.