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John Gerrard

Photos by Lance Gerber

Photos by Lance Gerber


Western Flag depicts the site of the ‘Lucas Gusher’ — the world’s first major oil find — in Spindletop, Texas in 1901, now barren and exhausted. The site is recreated as a digital simulation the center of which is marked by a flagpole spewing and endless stream of black smoke. The computer generated Spindletop runs in exact parallel with the real site in Texas throughout the year: the sun rising at the appropriate times and the days getting longer and shorter according to the seasons. The simulation is non-durational (having no beginning or end) and is run live by software that is calculating each frame of the animation in real-time as it is needed. Situated at the very gateway to the Coachella Valley and the city of Palm Springs Western Flag acts a stark reminder not just of the willful exploitation and depletion of resources that millions of years ago covered this former sea floor with an abundance of life, but of the energy taken to return the deserted land to its current state of artificial habitation. The invisible gas responsible for climate change is here made visible. Flying the flag of our own self-destruction we are asked to consider our role in the warming of the planet and simultaneous desertification of once fertile lands.

Desert X is grateful to the artist for his contribution to the 2019 edition and thanks Desert X Board members, benefactors and partners including Karen Swett Conway & Brian J Conway, Bridgitt & Bruce Evans, Mary Atwater James, Tristin Mannion, Richard J Massey Foundation, Steve Nichols, Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation, Sybil & Matthew Robson Orr, PS Resorts and PRG, for their support in realizing this notable installation for audiences around the world.

Listen to an interview with John Gerrard on the Desert X 2019 Podcast.

Title: Western Flag (Spindletop, Texas) 2014
Location: 2901 N. Palm, Canyon Drive, Palm Springs
33.859118, -116.559933

Desert X 2019 is permanently closed. The artworks have been removed.