24 June 2011

The award-winning Magnetic Movie was commissioned by Animate Projects for Channel 4 and was shot at the NASA Space Sciences Laboratory in Berkeley, CA as a development from Semiconductor’s residency there in 2005. It is now part of the Hirshhorn Museum’s permanent collection. Magnetic Movie is the most well known of Semiconductor’s work, though this may soon change, as they are part of Watch Me Move, the Summer show at the Barbican.  
 

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Magnetic Movie evolved from the absorption of being in the laboratory environment at NASA during their residency, where Semiconductor were able to attended presentations and as Ruth Jarman, one half of Semiconductor says, “Badger the scientists”. They began to look at how scientists use visual techniques to reveal their discoveries. The scientists were making the invisible, visible everyday using satellites and computers: parallels, which Semiconductor often draw out in their artistic practice.
 

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The film took two years to complete and involved a series of visits across to the lab in Berkley.  The CGI in Magnetic Movie is based on scientists actual visualisations of magnetic fields which they form from millions of lines of varying geometries which also have colour codes. The scientists use them to demonstrate how external influences can alter the magnetic field. These visualisations, alongside dialogue from the scientists, were then further interpreted by Semiconductor to form the piece of work.
 

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Through Magnetic Movie, Semiconductor play with the relationship between alternate reality and reality, staying true to their coined term of “fictional documentary”.  Through working with these invisible physics of nature, the magnetic fields are presented in such a way so that the viewer can actually see them. Arguably, this CGI “alternative reality” is actually reality, these magnetic fields exist and we just can’t see them. The shaky camera motion and the viewpoint further suggest the notion of discovery by the first person as they move around the laboratory space.
 

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Such is the confusion which Magnetic Movie has created, people have actually phoned the scientists at NASA to ask them how they had done the experiment and thousands of people have argued on blogs whether the film is art, science or both. You can view Magnetic Movie on Semiconductor’s Vimeo page here and make sure you watch it to the end because the fields actually burst out of the top of the lab!
 

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Semiconductor will have their first solo show at FACT this summer. Semiconductor: Worlds in the Making will run from 01 July – 19 September. Entry is free and you can follow this link for a bit more info.




 

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