From the artist’s website:
“Like many of Zanni’s past projects, Flying False Colors relies on the fluctuations of live digital information to affect the outcome of his artwork. Flying False Colors consists of a flag set in a wind-generating base that Zanni has programmed to blow at particular speeds and in certain directions based on online data streams that correlate to the number of oil barrels requested by a particular country and the current weather in that country’s capital. The flag is a replica of the universal Ecology Flag that was designed in 1969 and depicts the Greek symbol of Theta, which derives from thanatos, meaning death. However, Zanni’s flag is fabricated with a pigment that will flake off over time as it is blown, leaving a pure white flag by the end of the exhibition.”
Flying False Colors in relation to other works
In giving this installation shape, Zanni takes a recurring theme from his own work: the dynamic between mere numbers and the effects or events in real life they represent. This dynamic is also explored in works of his like Self Portrait with Dog, made in 2008, which shows Zanni himself walking his dog, as captured on Google Street View, facing contemporary issues concerning the dynamic between privacy and recorded data for reference. Another example is and Time In, created in 2004, which featured a dynamic city that visualized information in constant flux, gathered from a hacked database. On a different level it also uses the recurring aspect of referring to another (popular) cultural item. In this installation that item is Three Days of the Condor, a 1975 espionage film by Sydney Pollack, which suggested that oil production in the Middle East was controlled or influenced by ‘black-ops’ military operations.
The work itself mirrors what it represents; the slow gliding iron tubes along the ground recalling images of long oil pipelines in the Middle East, the flagstand casting a shadow reminiscent of an oil platform or a drilling tower, echoing Marshall McLuhan’s famous statement concerning the medium being the message. This message is quite explicit in the flag which has a symbol derived from the Greek word for ‘death’. An important aspect in this, is the flaking away of symbol on the flag, which is sped up according to the demand (which increases the gusts of wind blowing towards the flag and flaking off the paint) of oil in every country seen on the screen. This raises questions about in what ways this lust for oil, this need, drives countries away from or towards death. The white flag at the end of the exhibition strongly reminds the spectator of the white flag for surrender, ‘death’ being perhaps that which is surrendered to.
Death, white flags and oil all strongly evoke feelings of military presence or themes, not unlike Increasing the Latent Period in a System of Remote Destructibility by Mark Pauline and Survival Research Labs. Both artworks work towards a certain end, a destruction or surrender (or forcing into submission in the case of Increasing the Latent Period). The difference is that the remote users steering the work towards its end are directly acting and fully aware, while in Flying False Colors the steering is done somewhat unwittingly by the whole of society in using and doing everything that requires oil. These two variations are derived from the same concept of ‘telepresence’ as described by Eduardo Kac (Kac 1993, p. 237) , more explicitly so in Increasing the Latent Period than in the more abstract version of Flying False Colors.
Links and references
Kac, Eduardo, Telepresence Art, 1993, In: Edward Shanken, red. Art
and Electronic Media. London: Phaidon, 2009, p. 237