The latest project in Modern Art Oxford’s offsite programme, Exercise (Djibouti) 2012 by John Gerrard will be 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 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 and coinciding with the presence of the Olympic torch in Oxford, 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 London 2012 Festival is the finale of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Movements.