A major new commission premiering in Oxford until 29 July as part of the London 2012 Festival Old Power Station, Oxford
The latest project in Modern Art Oxford’s offsite programme, Exercise (Djibouti) 2012 by John Gerrard is presented as a large-scale cinematic installation in the dramatic setting of a disused power station in Oxford.
Originating in found documentary images of US military exercises in Djibouti (Horn of Africa) and informed by the artist’s research into athletic achievement, the work makes unprecedented use of emerging technologies to reflect on the relationship between competitive sport, military training, theatrical performance and dance.
On a simulacrum of the barren Djibouti landscape, two teams of computer-generated figures, wearing red and blue – the traditional colours of war gaming – meet daily at dawn to initiate a series of cryptic gestural routines: precise, repetitive, faintly antagonistic. The scene is a painstaking and extraordinarily detailed reproduction, constructed by hand within the virtual using photographic and satellite data guides from the original landscape.
The figures represent a group of elite athletes who were engaged for the project during their training for the London 2012 Olympic Games and whose actual movements were subsequently digitised using sophisticated motion-capture technologies. Neither completely synthetic nor strictly real, the work exists in “real time” (Djibouti: GMT +3 hours), orbiting over a yearly cycle that also incorporates the movements of sun, moon and stars.
Screening for a three-week period, Exercise (Djibouti) 2012 promises an important and contemporary response to the wider Summer spectacles of athletic competition, collective cooperation, and the exercise and representation of power.
Exercise (Djibouti) 2012 is commissioned by the Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art, Oxford University Sport and Modern Art Oxford and forms part of the London 2012 Festival. The Festival is a spectacular 12-week nationwide celebration bringing together leading artists from across the world with the very best from the UK.