FIELD, by Mishka Henner
There are technical printing challenges, and then there are the almost inconceivable challenges brought to us by the works of Mishka Henner. At 1.5 metres wide, and 13 metres in length, FIELD was the largest print we’ve ever been asked to create. Mishka’s stipulation for the piece was that it not only appeared colossal in scale and overall impact, but that it also needed to stand up to scrutiny on the micro level – the key was in the detail.
We knew the artist’s vision for the piece from the outset: a continuous run of archival fine art printing, to be produced as long as was technically feasible. There was a custom-designed plinth built at the Musée des Beaux Arts, in Le Locle, Switzerland – measurements were made to the millimetre so that the print from Manchester would match up perfectly with the plinth in Switzerland once the two elements were brought together.
The technical challenge of producing this piece was considerable, and required us to upgrade our print processing hardware to handle the 4GB of image data. We brought in a specialised RIP from Germany to convert the image for printing, in order to make full use of the 12 colour spectrum that our Canon fine art printers are capable of producing. Creating multiple colour proofs on site for the artist to approve was critical to getting the final result correct, as once production had begun on the final piece there was no going back. In total, the print run was close to 7 hours, with the final product being delicately handled by two technicians to coax it into the custom-built crate, ready for its onward journey to Switzerland.
COMMENTS FROM THE ARTIST:
When satellite imaging software such as Google Earth, Bing Maps and others became available to ordinary citizens more than a decade ago, perspectives that for years had been limited to international organizations, research centres, or the intelligence services were suddenly open to anyone with an internet connection.
This historical development in the evolution of photography allows us for the first time to capture large-scale industrial infrastructures whose vast scales are near-impossible to capture from the ground. With the sheer amount of satellite imagery available to us online, it’s now possible to study and capture the effects of these heavy industries on our rural and urban environments with unprecedented clarity. For the last few years, I’ve tried to make the most of these tools by studying and finding ways to visually represent giant oil fields, feedlots, and military networks in the USA and beyond.
I’ve often done this by combining Geographic Information System (GIS) databases that identify industrial sites with satellite imagery software, capturing hundreds of high-resolution images and stitching them together to create large prints and installations. These prints reveal in intricate detail these industrial infrastructures and the consequent effects they have on the landscape.
I was invited by Nathalie Herschdorfer, curator at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Le Locle, Switzerland, to create a unique installation of Wasson Oil and Gas Field. The main idea behind the installation was to present a kind of mausoleum to the oil industry comprising of a single print depicting a pumpjack-filled landscape and all of its complex networks of pipelines and transmission lines. The giant Wasson oil field is one of the largest mature fields in the United States and its exploitation has transformed every inch of its Texan landscape.
In preparing this work for gallery and museum exhibitions, we’ve had to overcome a number of technical challenges. The digital file sizes of these works are huge and preparing them for print requires specialized software capable of handling them. When it comes to choosing the most appropriate printing methods, only a few are capable of reproducing the intricate detail and textures of these landscapes. For the series focusing on oil fields, we found that inkjet printing resulted in the sharpest reproductions, resulting in works that more closely resemble technical drawings than photographs. Finally, although there’s a great variety of printing papers available, some are much better at conveying detail than others.
Klein Imaging and I have worked together for many years, producing works and installations for shows and different spaces and contexts around the world. Each project demands different solutions, from the creation of customized, irregular frames, to custom-built print installations. Over the years, Klein Imaging have been a reliable, dependable, and essential partner in the production of most of my works. – Mishka Henner
Exhibition Press Release, courtesy of Musée des Beaux Arts
Nowadays, we see the world through the filter of Google Street View, Google Maps or Google Earth: these programmes, launched by the web giant around 10 years ago, enable us to fly over our planet. Field by Mishka Henner consists of an assemblage of very high definition satellite photographs, which are freely available on the Internet. The image stretches over 13 metres in length and appears at first glance to be an abstract, geometric painting; yet on looking more closely, you realise that these are oilfields. They are located at the centre of the United States, a region that has fed Americans’ ever-growing energy needs for around a century. The territory extends over 96 km2 and consists of 935 producing wells and 440 injecting wells, although they are no longer all active. To extract the oil, 9200 million litres of carbon dioxide are injected into the ground each day. Henner thus offers an alarming perspective on this oil drilling, which, in his view, represents both a cultural and an industrial landscape. The satellite image, captivating in many respects, also serves as visual evidence of the destruction inflicted on our planet.