FACT commission broadcast on Channel 4
11 January 2013
Having collaborated with FACT last year for their first major UK exhibition, Worlds in the Making, Semiconductor (who are Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt) create work utilising the moving image to explore and change the way we view the phenomena of the natural world.
With a dreamlike sadness, Some Part of Us Will Have Become gives us the perspective of a lone robot attempting to quell man-made destruction in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010. Utilising internet streams captured during this catastrophic event, this piece evokes feelings of regret and recognition of a downward slide of destruction in man's intervention on this earth. However, there is a sense of awe and grandeur that accompanies this work - and is characteristic of Semiconductor - that prevents us from sinking into the maudlin and depressive. Instead we are raised above with the recognition of a world on a grander scale, from the beauty and delicacy of the minute to the magnificence of the expansive and immense.
For Worlds in the Making, Semiconductor presented a three-channel installation taking inspiration from volcanoes in the Galapagos Islands, using real footage taken of volcanologists at work, interviews and audio from field recordings, animation and seismic data. For one work in the exhibition, Crystallised, which was an animation of crystals growing deep in the Earth's crust, the pair encased a geologists microphone in a block of ice and recorded the sounds as it melted. They then spent six months writing new software to convert these sounds into animation, to enchanting effect. To complete this work Semiconductor spent three months at the Smithsonian Mineral Science Laboratory in Washington DC, keeping a blog of this experience.
Semiconductor have always been interested in the material nature of our world and how people experience this. Working since the early 1990s, their name is taken from the constraints of technology they encountered in creating work, in a sense, acknowledging the role the computer plays as an independent artist, shaping a degree of what the work could be. Of course, now technology is far less restrictive and they seem to be able to create almost any kind of incredible representation of our world. See the Semiconductor website to view some of this truly amazing work.
Today science is so often perceived as exclusive and technical, people feel disengaged from scientific discovery as if it is too complex not relevant. Bringing together art and science in a somewhat enigmatic relationship, Semiconductor manage to bridge this gap between the public and the scientific world, representing the wonder and beauty of the natural world that is so often lost in daily life.
Learn more about the technical side of the work in their enthralling first film, Magnetic Movie, filmed largely at NASA and depicting magnetic waves in scientific experiments, captivatingly enmeshing reality and artistic representation, read more of Semiconductor's views on their artistic practise in an interview by Rhizome.