Beaumont, Texas was once a quiet settlement whose Southeastern coastal location made it favorable for budding lumber, farming, and port industries. In 1901, bubbling dark sludge belched up from the depths of the earth and erupted into a geyser of oil that shot 150 feet into the air, and the world was forever changed. The sun has since set on that oil field known as Spindletop; the oil is gone but its byproduct remains as an invisible and powerful agent of change. Today rusty pumps rise and fall in the distance with little purpose.
Eighty times per second, this barren scene was produced by a gaming engine and displayed by a large LED screen 1,500 miles away, on the side of the 111 freeway in Palm Springs, CA. In the simulation, the landscape is replicated, serving as the backdrop for a tall pole with a smoking black flag. This entirely imagined virtual object, the “Western Flag,” stands as a beacon to consumption, rapid human progress, and the cost of this legacy.
Click through the slideshow to learn about John Gerrard's virtual art installtion with LED installation by PRG.