27 June 2011

Semiconductor cite their key inspirational people as, “people who push the boundaries of what they do… who are driven to thinking outside of the box or defying convention” One person who has been a constant influence to the duo is the late Nobel Prize winning American physicist, Dr. Richard Feynman, who assisted in the development of the atomic bomb. Ruth explains, “we kept coming back to Richard Feynman who as a physicist, had a unique way of asking questions about the universe that were often described as unorthodox, his writings and attitude are inspiring”.  If you interested, you can read a bit more about Feynman here.  The laws of physics play a huge part in the manifestation of Semiconductor’s work, especially when they are visualising scientific phenomena.  The way in which the artists portray what science could be mimics the explorative scientific methods utilsed by Feyman as he pushed the boundaries of physics, as we know it.  

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There have been many artist and scientist collaborations over the years but one of the pioneering artists to go down this path was the Californian Light and Space artist, Robert Irwin. Like Semiconductor, Irwin was also interested in space, energy and matter and wanted to find out how scientists approach the idea of visualising such forms.  Irwin spent time with Feynman in 1968 at the Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory where scientists were preparing for the Voyager spacecrafts.  Like Semiconductor, Irwin had realised that his work was moving into areas that were better suited to philosophy and science and therefore felt more comfortable collaborating with scientists like Feynman than visual artists.  Both Irwin’s and Semiconductor’s work are now owned by the Hirshhorn Musuem in LA.

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On face value, it may seem that artists would gain more from the collaborative process than scientists however in Siân Ede’s, (the Director of Arts at the Gulbenkian Foundation in the UK) book, Art & Science, she points out that, “real scientific progress could not happen without daydreaming: intellectual research and logical planning are essential for the making of art”. We also found this interesting article on the Physics.org website that mentions Semiconductor which shows just how far art has infiltrated the world of science!

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Semiconductor: Worlds in the Making will open at FACT on 01 July and will run until 11 September.