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Semiconductor’s solo exhibition: Worlds in the Making, FACT, Liverpool

  • Date: 28 June 2011
  • Area: North, South East
ashcloud from volcanic action

Ashcloud in Ecuador, Semiconductor, 2010. Credit: Photo courtesy of Semiconductor

An explosive new exhibition by two Brighton artists will open this week at a major Liverpool gallery.

Award-winning Brighton moving image artist duo Semiconductor - Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt - open their first major solo Worlds in the Making on Friday 1 July at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), an Arts Council England regularly funded organisation.

The exhibition takes inspiration from volcanoes in Galapagos Islands and presents moving image, sound and multimedia installations. It will also be the UK premiere of Worlds in the Making, a three-channel installation that combines real footage of volcanologists at work, animation, and audio from field recordings, interviews and seismic data.

Worlds in the Making is curated by Omar Kholeif and Jacqui Davies, commissioned by FACT and Jacqui Davies, and supported by Arts Council England.

Semiconductor gathered the material for Worlds in the Making during two extraordinary research opportunities in 2010 - one to the volcanic region of the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador and one to the Smithsonian Mineral Sciences Laboratory. Their Galapagos trip was supported with an Arts Council England Grants for the arts award of more than £30,000.

The duo make moving image work that explores the material nature of our world and how we experience it, using film, sound, scientific data, performance and animation. Their work has been exhibited internationally including at the Venice Bienniale, The Royal Academy, Hirshhorn Museum, BBC, ICA and the Exploratorium.

Prior to Worlds in the Making, Ruth and Joe had spent half a decade examining space science following an incredible fellowship in a NASA lab. The new work marks a shift in their artistic investigations.

Ruth from Semiconductor says: 'We wanted to come back down to Earth and take a few steps backwards. We wanted to think about the simple tools we use to learn about the immediate world around us and align this with a primal phenomena: the forming of land and matter through volcanoes and mineral crystals.'  

The exhibition includes a multi-channel installation that uses real 16mm volcano film archive (Inferno Observatory) and a video installation of three animations of crystals reacting to the sound of melting ice (Crystallised).

The exhibition also includes a new commission, a collaboration with multi instrumentalist Oren Ambarchi.

The duo set off on their fact-finding mission for Worlds in the Making in January and February 2010 as part of the Gulbenkian Galapagos Artist Residency Programme. They spent three weeks on the Galapagos Islands, seven days at the Charles Darwin Foundation on Santa Cruz Island and went on a trip to mainland Ecuador.

Ruth recalls the trip: 'We contacted volcanologists and organised to spend additional time in mainland Ecuador where, just as we left the UK, a volcano started erupting.

'We spent several weeks around this volcano hanging around with scientists in their observatory, sleeping in a little hut on an opposite hill and finding the best vantage points. The whole experience was quite exhilarating, and so many people helped us on our way.'

Later that year, the pair received a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, where they got to work closely with volcanologists and scientists at the Smithsonian Mineral Sciences Laboratory.

Ruth continues: 'We met several volcanologists there whose work features in Worlds in the Making. Dick Fiske, who we see analysing his volcanic samples and narrating his field notes. We also use audio recordings from Bill Melson, who had a vast collection of volcanic eruptions on audio tape.'

The artists hope that the exhibition will not just be looked at as raw presentations of science, but also as works of art - and as a means of thinking about the natural world we live in.

Ruth says: 'We're not trying to accurately portray or teach science but re-interpret it. This often has the knock on effect of demystifying it, perhaps because we're looking for the human nature or signature in it. Our intentions are for the works to be art.  

'Ultimately we would like the audience to stand back from the world we think we know and ask themselves questions about how they experience the natural world, what do they perceive and what is influenced by what science has taught us about it.'

Semiconductor's Worlds in the Making is on at FACT, Liverpool, from Friday 1 July to Sunday 11 September 2011 in Galleries 1 and 2, Media Lounge and Public Spaces. Entry is free.