Posted On: April 1, 2010

Ernie Gehr

Surveillance,  a four-channel video work by noted filmmaker Ernie Gehr,  installed at the southern end of Madison Square Park, takes inspiration from two philosophically-incompatible  themes: the lush environment, lively atmosphere, and fundamentally recreational character of public parks v.  the proliferating presence of security cameras in public life. Gehr attempts to poetically apply the aesthetic of surveillance to focus eyes and mind on the sensuous visual tableaux and fleeting moments of intimacy that make Madison Square Park a treasured urban oasis.


About the Artist

Ernie Gehr, born in 1941, grew up in Milwaukee, WI. He lives and works in New York City. Since 1967, Gehr’s experimental films have cemented his place as one of the most influential and internationally-celebrated members of a generation of artists whose collective innovations in filmmaking revolutionized the medium’s position in the field of visual art. Beginning in 2000, the formal and conceptual rigor, minute attention to detail, and rich, sensuous imagery that characterize Gehr’s work in film have also become the hallmarks of his recent experiments with digital media, including the multi-channel, high-definition digital video installation format used in  Surveillance, his 2010 commission for the Madison Square Park Conservancy.

Gehr has exhibited extensively and to great acclaim since the late 1960s at institutions including Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museum of the Moving Image, New York; Anthology Film Archives, New York; and Toronto International Film Festival. His work is featured in many significant public collections, including those of Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Anthology Film Archives, New York; Academy of Motion Pictures, Los Angeles; and Art Institute of Chicago. Gehr’s 1970 film  Serene Velocity  was selected by the United States Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry, and he has been the recipient of numerous awards, most recently the Stan Brakhage Vision Award from the Denver International Film Festival in 2009.


This project is supported in part with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council. Mad. Sq. Art is made possible by the leadership and generosity of the many friends of the Madison Square Park Conservancy.


Village Voice


Further Information

Harvard Film Archive

The Brooklyn Rail