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Photo by: John Gerrard

This article is the latest in our series #Art4Climate, a joint initiative by the UNFCCC secretariat and Julie’s Bicycle on the work of artists who make the issue of climate change more accessible and understandable by featuring it in their work. It was inspired by a session at the Salzburg Global Seminar in early 2017.

Irish artist John Gerrard creates real-time computer simulations of energy installations – for example solar farms – to raise awareness about the key role of clean energy in the global fight against climate change.

The massively accelerated and scaled up deployment of clean, renewable energy is crucial for the world to achieve the central goal of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which is to keep the global average temperature as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Creating greater social acceptance for new forms of clean, renewable energy is important because whilst renewables improve air quality, help fight climate change and create new jobs, some people still have problems with them on aesthetic grounds.

Real-Time Simulation of a Solar Power Installation

Through his art work, the Irish artist shows that renewable energy installations can be not only nice to look, but beautiful. For example, in “Solar Reserve,” John Gerrard presents a computer generated simulation of an existing solar thermal power plant located in Tonopah, Nevada in the United States.

The simulation is projected onto a huge LED screen, which allows the public to discover energy production from a unique perspective.

The tower in Nevada is surrounded by more than 10,000 mirrors which automatically adjust their positions to the sun and reflect sunlight to heat molten salts and generate electricity. The solar station has a capacity of 110 MW and can power up to 75,000 homes.

“Solar Reserve” displayed at the Lincoln Center Plaza in New York

The virtual replica of the solar power farm simulates the real movement of the sun as it would appear on the actual site in Nevada, which makes viewers feels they are actually standing close to the energy installation. To achieve this level of realism, the artist worked together with a team of modelers and programmers using state of the art simulation software and hardware.

“Solar Reserve” was first displayed at the Lincoln Center Plaza in New York, and it was presented last year at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, in Beijing, as part of Gerrard’s first exhibition in China. Both the United States and China have taken major steps to deploy solar power, with both almost doubling their solar capacity in 2015 alone - a fact that many people are not aware of.

Reducing Carbon Emissions for a Sustainable Future

John Gerrard also creates art that captures some of the consequences of burning fossil fuels. Earlier this year, Gerrard presented a real-time simulation depicting a flag of black smoke in the middle of the Texan desert. The installation serves as a symbol for the greenhouse gas emissions of industrialized societies, and highlights the need to reduce global carbon emissions to limit the threats posed by climate change around the world.

“The world needs to engage with the invisibility of carbon dioxide. Just because you cannot see CO2 does not mean it can be ignored – as we all do, every day,” says John Gerrard.

“Western Flag” is a real-time simulation of the site of the Lucas Gusher, the first major oil discovery in the world

The art piece, titled “Western Flag,” shows the site of the Lucas usher, one of the first oil fields in the world, discovered in the beginning of the 20th century in Spindletop, Texas. The actual site is now abandoned and depleted, but the scene was recreated with a flag of black smoke pouring into the air. As in in Gerrard’s artwork on solar energy, the installation follows the movement of the sun to mimic the changing Texan landscape in real time, providing a unique aesthetic experience.

“Western Flag” presented at the Somerset House in London

“Western Flag” was displayed at Somerset House in London and streamed live online. It was also broadcasted on British television station Channel 4, as interruptions to regular programming, on April 22 to coincide with Earth Day 2017.

For more information about John Gerrard’s work, click here.

#Art4Climate is a joint initiative by the UNFCCC and Julie’s Bicycle to spot and propose super recent and new works in this broad field, but we also want to hear from you! Please send any proposals for showcasing to newsroom@unfccc.int or Chiara@juliesbicycle.com.
Please amplify our web posts with Twitter hashtag #Art4Climate and #COP23!

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