Semiconductor: Worlds in the Making

FACT, Liverpool

Until 11th September

UK artist duo Semiconductor, otherwise known as Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt, are, as their name suggests, fond of the use of cutting-edge technology. Yet their works look not just at the possibilities of their chosen medium, but at the very foundations of the physical world.

Gallery 1 is taken up entirely by the eponymous Worlds in the Making (2011) a huge three-channel, 23 minute moving image piece. It utilises filmed footage alongside scientific information, taking seismic data and translating it into audio and animation. Its sheer scope is impressive, but for all its size and high-tech tricks, the film is perhaps at its most compelling in the small details, the intense focus on the seismic needle and the slow panning shots across the fractured landscape.

In Gallery 2 meanwhile is Inferno Observatory (2011) an installation utilising old CRT televisions placed at various angles, displaying an array of archive footage found during Semiconductor’s fellowship at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. The juxtaposition of the massive scale and forces of these volcanoes with the mundane, repetitive human tasks of the volcanologists studying and monitoring them is fascinating and curious.

Semiconductor have used digital tools to examine the very core of the material world, the minerals at the heart of every bit of modern technology, and remind us the epicenes and importance of much of what we may perceive to be irrelevant to our lives, like geology, but also the banality behind much of how we understand this world. This is a compelling media art exhibition that’s worth experiencing.

This review appeared in the August/September issue of Aesthetica magazine