8 July 2011

Artist duo Semiconductor have brought together the 16mm footage used in Inferno Observatory to create this online version of the installation FACT’s Gallery 2.

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During a fellowship at the Mineral Sciences Laboratory in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, Semiconductor unearthed a 16mm volcano film archive shot by volcanologists as far back as 1913.

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The films show the amazing, eccentric lengths that the volcanologists would go to tame nature. They seem to spend a lot of time attacking the lava with sticks, lighting their cigarettes and getting their wives to pose as the ground burns behind them. These human endeavors pale in comparison to the sheer magnitude of exploding volcanoes and bubbling lava rivers that form the rest of the footage

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What results from Inferno Observatory is an exploration of the complex human relationship with natural phenomena.  In Gallery 2, the footage is installed on TVs pilled high, reminiscent of the rocky landscapes shown on the screens with the backdrop of a large-scale projection of ash and lava spewing from craters. The experience feels like you are almost there, spying on the Indiana Jones’ of the 1900’s, but with the modern pleasures of the cool gallery environment.

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Inferno Observatory is installed in Gallery 2 as part of the Semiconductor: Worlds in the Making exhibition, which runs until 11 September.  Entry is free and the galleries are open daily from 12noon until 6pm.

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Inferno Observatory from Semiconductor on Vimeo.