20 June 2011

During the end of 2005, Semiconductor were awarded the Arts Council England International Fellowship Programme: Art and Space Science, which facilitated a five month residency in the UC Berkeley Space Sciences Lab.  During the residency they were able to work closely with the scientists in the lab, observing, interviewing and exploring their thought processes. This was an invaluable opportunity for the duo to gain knowledge about the way scientists think and work. As a result of the fellowship, Semiconductor produced three pieces of work, Do You Think Science…, Ways of Making Sense and Brilliant Noise which were exhibited across the UK.

Our favourite piece at FACT has to be Brilliant Noise, especially after seeing these installation photos which were taken at the Recombinant Media Labs in San Francisco. Brilliant Noise came about during the initial stages of the residency in the NASA labs, where a still image of the sun which grabbed their attention. The image had come from a store of raw data that the scientists had collected and they had archives full of them but it required specialist knowledge to turn the data into imagery. Semiconductor learnt from the scientists these skills and went on to download gigabytes of data, which formed the starting point for Brilliant Noise.

The result is an awe-inspiring film that allows the viewer access to the unbelievable visuals of the sun.  Will Gater, astronomer and author, gave the piece his seal of approval by saying, “I haven’t seen science portrayed so well, in art, for a long time… The power of the Sun, its magnetic field and the turbulent nature of the surface and atmosphere is conbeyed with incredible power and real feeling”. Take a look at his website if you have time, there’s some really beautiful imagery of the night sky.


Since the fellowship finished in 2006, more work has transpired from the residency such as the award winning, Magnetic Movie.  We spoke to Ruth about how the residency has informed Semiconductor’s artistic practice to date...

“We spent half a decade immersed in space science after the incredible fellowship in a NASA lab, and during this time we were thinking a lot about the tools that man creates to try and understand the physical world around him. For Worlds in the Making we wanted to come back down to Earth and take a few steps backwards to think about the simple tools we use to learn about the immediate world around us…”


Keep your eyes open for blogs further exploring the relationship with the artist and the scientist as well as one featuring Magnetic Movie.

Semiconductor: Worlds in the Making
will open at FACT on the 01 July and will run until 11 September. The galleries are open from 12.00pm – 6.00pm daily and entry is free.