artworks

Cosmos Archeology, group exhibition

Exhibiting as part of group exhibition Cosmos Archeology, Exploring the Universe through Art & Science, Shanghai Astronomy Museum, China, 18 May – 17 September 2024. Co-curated by Sarah Kenderdine from the EPFL Laboratory for Experimental Museology (eM+) and EPFL Pavilions, Jean-Paul Kneib from EPFL’s Laboratory of Astrophysics (LASTRO), and independent curator Iris Long.

Spectral Constellations acquired by VU ART Collection, Vrije University Amsterdam

Following its inclusion in Creating the Commons at the VU Art Science Gallery, Amsterdam, Spectral Constellationshas been acquired for the VU Art Collection – Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The artwork will be permanently installed in a new Vrije University Research Building, housing the departments of Astronomy, Physics, Neurosciences, Earth Sciences and Human Health & Life Sciences.

Future Thinking Manifolds

Future Thinking Manifolds, carbon drawings series, 2023

2023
A1 plotter drawings, custom programming, carbon

Future Thinking Manifolds is a series of multi-dimensional drawings created using programming, carbonated card and a computer plotter, exploring the ways in which humankind seeks to position itself in relation to notions of time and attempts to envisage the future. 

Taking the UK Government Office for Science ‘The Future’s Toolkit’ as a starting point – a set of techniques which have been employed to enable policy makers to effectively think about the future – words or phrases relating to time and the future from psychology, physics, government research, science fiction, and the artists’ own reflections, populate a set of pseudo-scientific diagrams. 

Each term on the diagram appears on its own plane, with no one concept privileged over another. Freed from their contexts and notions of value they invite a process of inquiry, whereby words and phrases can be weighed up against each other, and new narratives formed or existing ones unpicked. They suggest knowledge which is in flux and open to interpretation. 

Through the act of hand-picking their reference points from a variety of disciplines and systems of knowledge-making, Semiconductor emphasise the subjective nature of the gathering and editing process, raising questions around whose voice is heard and who is best placed to imagine potential futures.

By using Calabi-Yau Manifold geometries depicting possible extra-dimensions, Semiconductor propose an expansion on our everyday experiences of time and space, reflecting research’s suggested importance of the human capacity for abstract thought when thinking about temporally distant futures.

Created through a placement at the UK Government Office for Science, within the future thinking team (Futures, Foresight and Emerging Technologies) as part of the MANIFEST programme.

Reference List:  

The Futures Toolkit, Tools for Futures Thinking and Foresight Across UK Government, Government Office for Science, Edition 1.0, November 2017

The Future: RAND, Brand and Dangerous to Know
Beck, J. 2016. The Future: RAND, Brand and Dangerous to Know. in: Beck, J. and Bishop, R. (ed.) Cold War Legacies: Systems, Theory, Aesthetics. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 35-49

The Psychology Of Thinking About The Future: Edited by Ganriele Oettingen, A, Timur Sevincer, and Peter M. Gollwitzer, The Guilford Press

The Ezra Klein Show – New York Times Opinion, podcast, Why Sci-Fi Legend Ted Chiang Fears Capitalism, Not A.I. : Podcast, December 2021

Professor Danielle Faccio, Professor in Quantum Technologies, Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies, Leader of the Extreme Light Group and Director of Research for the School of Physics and Astronomy., University of Glasgow. In conversation with Semiconductor 2023

Dr Maria Chiara Braidotti: Research Associate in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Glasgow. Extreme Light Group, University of Glasgow. In conversation with Semiconductor 2023

Semiconductor: Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt in conversation July 2023.

Future Thinking Manifolds, carbon drawings series, 2023

Future Thinking Manifolds, Bloc Projects, Sheffield, 2023

Future Thinking Manifolds, Bloc projects, Sheffield, 2023

Future Thinking Manifolds, Bloc Projects, 2023

Future Thinking Manifolds, Bloc Projects, Sheffield, 2023

Sensing the Forest seminar series

Semiconductor talk as part of the AHRC Sensing the Forest project’s fortnightly online seminar series with experts related to artistic, social and scientific interventions in the forest or other natural landscapes with a special focus on acoustic phenomena. The seminar series includes talks by Semiconductor, Peter Sinclair, Saloni Shah, Jones/Bulley, Liz O’Brien and Alice Eldridge. Wednesday 18 October, 15:00 – 16:30 UK time, free and online, bookings via eventbrite. More info here: sensingtheforest.github.io/seminars/

Helicase

Helicase, 2023

2023, kinetic sculpture (brass, motors, gears, programming)

Helicase is a permanent site-specific sculpture created for the library at UK artificial intelligence company DeepMind’s headquarters, Kings Cross, London. 

Taking as its point of departure the Double Helix, a scientific symbol embedded in our collective consciousness, Helicase consists of a vertical array of horizontal brass pendulums which rotate slowly to generate interrelating wave-forms in a double-helix formation.

The winding and unwinding motion of the pendulums, a sequence of actions which is realised through a simple algorithm, mimics the way that Helicase enzymes spin DNA to replicate it. 

The rod and ball pendulums, similar to those used in scientific wave-form modelling machines, play with our visual perceptions while our brain attempts to read the shifting forms, reminding us of   the human tendency towards pattern recognition, one of the key foundations of AI machine-learning. 

Commissioner: DeepMind

Curator: Modus Operandi

Fabrication: millimetre

Helicase (detail), 2023

Helicase, 2023

Helicase, 2023

Helicase, 2023

 

 

Royal Holloway Analogue Modelling Lab

Residency at the Analogue Modelling lab, Royal Holloway University, extending research begun in 2016 when making Earthworks. The lab uses a technique of pressure and motion to simulate tectonic and seismic forces; reproducing the generation and evolution of landscapes over thousands of years. Working with the lab equipment Semiconductor will create a series of tests for new works exploring how we might model future geologies.

Unheimlich Fantastisch: E.T.A. Hoffmann 2022

Exhibiting as part of touring exhibition Unheimlich Fantastisch: E.T.A. Hoffmann 2022, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Hoffmann’s death 2022 at:
Ausstellungsräume Staatsbibliothek Bamberg: 25 July – 22 October 2022
Stabi Kulturwerk Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin: 17 August – 02 November 2022
Deutsches Romantik-Museum Frankfurt am Main: 24 November 2022 – 12 February 2023 https://etahoffmann.staatsbibliothek-berlin.de/etah2022/

CERN 10th Anniversary Podcast

Launch of the #ArtsatCERN10 Podcast in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Arts at CERN. For the podcast Semiconductor are in conversation with CERN theoretical physicist (and previous Semiconductor collaborator) John Ellis. The podcast explores the works which resulted from Semiconductor’s time at CERN – the large scale installation HALO and the film The View from Nowhere – the use of data as artistic material and the limits of scientific research.
Hosted by Ana Prendes, Communications and Content Producer at Arts at CERN.
Listen to the episode here: https://bit.ly/ArtsatCERNpodcast or via Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts.

Morphogenic Movements

Morphogenic Movements, Novartis Pavillon, 2022. Photo credit: iart

2022, Real-time generative animations for media façade

Morphogenic Movements, is a series of three real-time generative animations which transform the Novartis Pavillon media façade into a self-organising system. Through the generation of cell-like forms which emerge from visual noise, the artwork explores self-organisation as a contemporary scientific method for understanding complex systems as coherent wholes. 

Self-organisation refers to the emergence of an overall order in time and space of a given system, that results from the collective interactions of its individual components. This concept has been widely recognized as a core principle in pattern formation for multi-component systems of the physical, chemical and biological world, from galaxies to living cells. Historically much of the success of the sciences has relied on a reductionist approach, in which complex systems are taken apart to examine the individual components and how they interact.

By employing algorithms which generate noise and feedback loops, the real-time animations simulate conditions associated with naturally occurring self-organising systems. Within this ‘environment’ we have encouraged the manifestation of properties observed in the dynamic evolution of these systems, such as spontaneous formation of patterns, unpredictability, waves and oscillations, so that the way the forms move, evolve and interact, feels organic, constantly shifting and mutating. Through the correlations and fluctuations of these processes order emerges from chaos, in the form of cell-like patterns, which are observed in many underlying structures of the natural physical world, particularly in biological life-forms.

Morphogenic Movements was commissioned for the Novartis Pavillon zero energy media façade. The façade is made from a network of 30,000 LED cores, powered by 10,000 energy-generating solar panels that light up at night.

The Novartis Pavillon is a learning, event and exhibition space in Basel on the Novartis campus, and is the first building on the site that is open to the public.

Commissioned by Novartis. Curated by Sabine Himmelsbach, HEK Basel.

Media Façade designed by iart with AMDL Circle.

Morphogenic Movements, Novartis Pavillon, 2022. Photo credit: iart

 

Morphogenic Movements , Novartis Pavillon, 2022, simulation.

Morphogenic Movements, Novartis Pavillon, 2022, simulation.

 

Morphogenic Movements, Novartis Pavillon, 2022. Photo credit: iart

Residency with Planet Disk Connection Group and DJCAD, University of Dundee, Scotland (2019-2021)

Spectral image data

Over a period of 2 years, from 2019-2021 we were artists in residence with the Planet Disk Connection Group, University of Dundee, Scotland. We visited and met with scientists  whose research explores planet formation environments, and carried out research at our studio.

University of Dundee, Physics Building

As well as trying to absorb the overall scientific and technological approach, we filtered areas of specific personal interest; the methods used to capture light from distant stars, the processes it goes through via layers of physical translation, the data that is produced, what the data can tell us and how the team employed time in their observations. In our artworks we’re interested in creating experiences of the matter being studied framed through the scientific and technological devices that are used to study it. We do this to not only explore the capacity of humankind to create an understanding of the physical world but to reflect on our place in it. We were interested in the processes, tools and devices used to study the matter as much as the matter itself.

Aurora Sicilia Aguilar, University of Dundee researcher in star formation and protoplanetary disks

 

credit: John Lightfoot


We spent time with the PDCG researchers, absorbing their modes of working, particular areas of interest and inquiry. This sketch which
Aurora Sicilia Aguilar (University of Dundee researcher in star formation and protoplanetary disks) used in one of her presentations, became one of the touchstones for our early research. It shows how ‘shadows cast by material very close to a star can be projected onto the surrounding nebula as if it were a giant screen’, we are shown a ‘view from Earth’ and a ‘side view’ from some position in space. This idea of  viewpoint is something we are always fascinated by, how we are bound by our physical positioning on planet Earth rotating around the Sun, or by our sensory limitations in only being able to see a portion of light waves for example. We reflect on how these impact our everyday experiences of the physical world, this often involves stepping outside of ourselves and intentionally entering a space of unknowing.

A painting of La Silla, European Space Observatory, Chile, under the southern sky by the Chilean artist Nemesio Anthunesz, on the request of the Swedish Natural Science Research Council.

In our studio back in Brighton we researched the science and technologies behind spectroscopy and more specifically the spectroscopic instruments whose data the scientists analyse in their research. These include the HARPS and FEROS spectroscopes, located at La Silla Observatory, Chile. (We were due to visit these in November 2019 for another project, which was quite serendipitous, but it was unfortunately cancelled due to the Chile uprising.) It’s quite easy to access all the hardware and technical documents once you start searching and they’re invaluable for getting a thorough understanding.

Spectral type colour chart

 

In our studio, Brighton, UK

 

Spectral image data

Our research took us down many paths, including looking into waveguides, prisms and optics, ways of guiding, dispersing and projecting light. We like to thoroughly pick apart the scientific and technical process as part of our research, not only to get a good understanding of the subject we are working with, but to have a good handle on the raw materials to build with, from the ground up. This way we can draw together multiple strands in an intuitive way informed by the research.

 

The Fiber-fed Extended Range Optical Spectrograph (FEROS) credit: ESO. The Fiber-fed Extended Range Optical Spectrograph (FEROS) was originally installed on the ESO 1.52-metre telescope in 1998. After this telescope was decommissioned, FEROS was moved to the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope, where it had first light in 2002.

 

We explored the European Space Observatory (ESO) data archives, accessing and learning about the spectrograph data from a wide range of ESO spectroscopes. This involved trawling through archives and learning about the different techniques for presenting spectroscopic information collected of light from forming stars and planets, as visual data.

We created a log of observatories, instruments, calibration processes, spectrograph techniques and targets used by Dundee.

Image credit: ESO
Spectrograph of target Ex LUPI taken by the SINFONI (Spectrograph for Integral Observations in the Near Infrared) instrument at the European Space Observatory, Chile. Each instrument collates the dispersed light in a differing visual configuration, which lays the capturing process bare.

 

Justyn Campbell White’s (post-doctoral researcher, Astrophysics, University of Dundee) office / spectral wave data Image credit: Semiconductor

Post-doctoral researcher Justyn Campbell White took us through spectral numerical data; what it is, how it exists and how we can access it. We learnt about the software he’s creating to compare information from the same target over periods of time, this is the key to resolving information about structures around young stars. The waveform plots flux or light intensity over light wave.

Model of the ESO 3.6-m Telescope with transparent dome.

 

Plane plot made in Topcat using processed data

In the studio we accessed numerical waveform data for different targets and instruments and comparing, to get a good understanding of it. We gathered materials, data and techniques to experiment with, considering the numerical data as a way to bring time into the process, using the flux to give rhythm.

To create Spectral Constellations, the work which evolved from this residency, we employed animation software which we can realise in real-time. This new software was quite different to the software we had used previously, which was laborious and time-consuming, requiring the rendering animations, it’s more immediate and lent itself to a feeling closer to sculpting light, with instant results to programming and manipulation. Our practice always sees us pushing the technology we use to learn its limitations and find a space where our own language can emerge. Into this software we introduced some of the emission line data we collected during our research to see what it brought to the table both physically and conceptually. We also played with introducing other external materials which guide and manipulate the light based on the capturing techniques scientists employ to study light emissions.

This photo shows the ESO 1.52-m telescope, installed since almost 30 years in its dome at the La Silla observatory in the southern Atacama desert. The new FEROS spectrograph is placed in an adjacent, thermally and humidity controlled room in the telescope building (where a classical coudé spectrograph was formerly located). The light is guided from the telescope to the spectrograph by 14-m long optical fibres.

The STAR-MELT paper that the scientists have written on the software they have developed to study emission lines of young stellar objects was accepted for publishing while we were on our residency. This helped consolidate and reinforce our research, focusing in on what’s important in their endeavour and describing the technicalities of how they work with the data they collect. It also introduced a new way of working with the data over time. This paper becomes instrumental in setting our direction of investigating the spectral data as a physical material to work with – light and time in the form of animation.

The residency culminated in the creation of a three LED panel artwork. The LEDs display generative animations, driven by scientific data of young stars. Taking the Spectroscopy data of gas and dust structures around distant young stars, which comes together to form planets. 

We worked directly with Spectral data from the European Space Observatory archive (http://archive.eso.org/

You can read more about Spectral Constellations here.

Spectral Constellations, 2022

 

Spectral Constellations (still), 2021

 

FEAT (Future Emerging Art and Technology) Residency (2016)

Lenses used to study the quantum behaviour of atoms, University of Oxford lab

In 2016 we were invited to be artists-in residence with QuProcs (Quantum Probes for Quantum Systems) a joint research project between a number of international labs. 

We made research trips to three of these: the Clarendon Laboratory at Oxford University, the Computational and Quantum Optics Group at Strathclyde University in Scotland and the Quantum Lab at University of Turku in Helsinki.

Strathclyde University Lab

 

University of Oxford lab wall

Supported by Professor Sabrina Maniscalco we arranged meetings with the teams at each of the labs, and undertook our own research to get to grips with the whys and hows of what the scientists were doing.

Meeting scientists Turku University

It is always quite overwhelming and exhausting jumping in the deep end in this way, spending an intensive period taking on lots of new information that you don’t fully comprehend, but we have found it is actually key to how we work. Engaging directly with the scientists rather than learning from the written page enables you to get the bigger picture, experience how the science functions in the lab and gives opportunities to delve into specific areas of interest and build up relationships with the scientists. All of this becomes integral to our process of making an artwork when engaging with scientific settings. 

University of Oxford imaging of an optical lattice

One of the key experiments carried out by QuProcs at Strathclyde University involves attempting to look at individual atoms trapped with light to understand better the problems of solid state physics. By using lasers the scientists trap atoms in an ‘optical lattice’ just like the crystal in a semiconductor, the lattice mimics atoms in real world materials. This process allows the quantum behaviour of atoms to be studied. Atom sources, which are metal in atomic form, are heated up to a vapour, and then cooled and pushed, as a beam, through stages of cooling, to get to very low temperatures. The low temperatures enable the scientists to see the atoms isolated to observe their quantum behaviour. 

The scientists described the experiment as starting with a system which is settled, and then disturbing it, shaking it, removing one particle in the middle, then taking images in time intervals which reveal something about the quantum behaviour of particles.

University of Oxford, view through an infrared viewer

We were interested to hear the researchers speaking about different kinds of ‘image capturing’. They described two types of image: Fluorescing the image, which consists of collecting the photons emitted by the atoms, and the data is the matrix with intensity. The other technique, absorption imaging, is the inverse, where you image the absence of light. You take two pictures, one with the atoms and one where you shine light onto the atoms. You collect what comes through and in effect you get a picture of atom shadows. 

One of the key bits of learning from these conversations and our time in the QuProcs labs was the principle that complexity arises from the build-up of particles when studying their individual interactions on a microscopic scale. That new unpredictable phenomena emerge (Sabrina Maniscalc, Oxford). 

As Andrew Daley told us ‘a lot of the most exciting discoveries with physics have not been discoveries from suddenly seeing that something is fundamentally different about the microscopic, they were things about how particles behave when there’s many of them –  their collective behaviour – a behaviour that you couldn’t predict even if you knew very well how things behave microscopically.’

University of Oxford lab, lenses for directing lasers to create ‘optical lattice’

The first person to describe this on a philosophical level was physicist Philip Anderson, in his editorial in Popular Mechanics, More Is Different: Broken symmetry and the nature of the hierarchical structure of science, (4 Aug 1972, Vol 177, Issue 4047 https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.177.4047.393)

Andrew goes on to explain ..when we start investigating what was happening in particular condensed matter, the physics of electrons and solids, we started to discover that even if you could write down a microscopic model for how nature in principle worked , it did not mean that you would immediately understand all the properties that came out of that. 

As soon as you started to do physics on a scale where you had more particles involved, it was not enough to know these microscopic models, it was almost like a new science completely unto itself to understand what was happening. 

Strathclyde University

 

Oxford University lab

In the past we have spent time in science laboratories with very large fields of interest. For this project it was great to gain insight into a more specific area of research. It enabled us to carry out in-depth research in the area and get a thorough understanding of the science being carried out, with a clear overview of the experiments, simulations and theories being explored. 

Strathclyde University, research scientists desk

When starting our residency some of the scientists were initially unsure about what we might want from them, this was partly due to none of the labs having previously had artists visiting. At one lab a scientist opened up to us at a dinner saying he hadn’t been interested in meeting the visiting artists, but that after we had spent some time with him talking about his work he found it really enjoyable and beneficial to him, helping him to consider his work in a new way. 

Meeting scientists Turku University

Following two days spent at the Turku lab in Finland discussing with the theorists in groups, what they do and the fundamentals of their work, Sabrina said that several scientists had told her they really enjoyed talking to us in this way as they don’t get to talk to each other like that normally; for them it opened up new ways of engaging with each other. Receiving this feedback from scientists during our residencies helps us reflect upon our role as artists and to get a better understanding of what we can bring to science settings as well as what we can take away to help us develop new work and concepts.

Anton Buyskikh mathematical simulation

After the initial research trips and the independent research we carried out we narrowed our focus upon the mathematical simulations produced at the Strathclyde lab by Anton Buyskikh. Anton was kind enough to send us files, images and data to further our research and experiments. We then set to work developing a computer generated animation with mathematical quantum system simulations as a starting point, considering what they represent and how the language of science represents it.

Parting the Waves exhibited as part of Semiconductor: The Technological Sublime, City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand, 2019

The residency resulted in the creation of a new moving image work Parting the Waves, you can read more about this here.

Residency at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (2015)

Aerial view of part of CERN campus

During our three months residency at CERN we took time to explore every nook of the vast site, we learnt so much about the history of CERN this way and connected with people we wouldn’t have ordinarily crossed paths with. There’s a tower we sneaked into to get a good view of part of the main campus.

Theorist Luis Alvarez Gaume, our scientific partner during our residency at CERN

Luis Alvarez Gaume is a theorist and was our scientific partner. We had our weekly therapy sessions with him where he would turn the physical laws of the universe, as we knew them, on their head and constantly pull the rug from under our feet. He kept us on our toes, and you can hear him dissecting science and scales of human experience in our work The View from Nowhere.

CERN scientists John Ellis

John Ellis guided us on our explorations into theories around The Standard Model. He was kind and generous allowing us to fumble our way around the complex world they inhabit. He too is in the View from Nowhere

In one of the workshops at CERN

We asked to have a tour of the workshop. They’re creating prototype parts for various experiments employing incredible skill and time-consuming processes to nudge and force metal into various forms and structures. It became clear that at CERN they are pushing the envelope at every level, operating at the limits of human endeavours, both technologically and empirically. Here we are at the workshop where they learnt to ignore us over the couple of weeks we filmed in there.

Inside building 180 at CERN

In building 180 we bore witness to the sheer scale CERN is working at, these limits of human endeavour, what surprised us was how the language of theory, essentially mathematics came to be the creative, malleable and playful language whereas the real world materials of technology were hard and fixed and difficult to move and control. We played with this contrast in our moving image work The View from Nowhere.

Building 180

Discussion taking place in the theory department at CERN

Hanging out in the theory department we couldn’t aim to understand their discussions but tried to absorb their methods, interactions, languages and endeavours.

ATLAS experiment, CERN

 

In the CERN archive with Anita Hollier

Anita Hollier welcomed our request to visit the archive and have a poke around.

The archive holds collections of past scientists’ physical notebooks and paperwork.

Bubble Chamber photograph, in the archive, showing a ‘looper’ moving through the instrument.

Bubble Chamber activity photograph, in the archive.

Bubble Chamber photograph, in the archive.

In the archive we went looking for evidence of the human signature in the capturing process.

Working in our temporary studio at CERN

This is an ATLAS data image in Root. Beginnings of thinking about ATLAS data and how we might be able to work with it / access it / in what way we would work with it of thinking about HALO.

ATLAS data used to make HALO

 

Visualisation of HALO, which is a kinetic artwork created using particle collision data collected through the ATLAS experiment at CERN

As a result of our residency we were given the opportunity to propose a large-scale idea for Audemars Piguet Commission at Art Basel.

 

Arts at CERN: https://arts.cern
CERN: https://home.cern
ATLAS experiment: https://atlas.cern
Experimental Particle Physics Research Group, University of Sussex: https://www.sussex.ac.uk/epp/research/aod

Jerwood Open Forest (2013-2014)

Water Vapour detector, Flux Tower

In 2013 we were awarded a commission by Jerwood Open Forest, a partnership between Jerwood Charitable foundation and Forestry Commission England. For the commission we were invited to create a site-specific public sculpture which would be situated in the Alice Holt Forest in Hampshire a woods of oak and conifer trees, which supplied timber for the building of ships for the Royal Navy in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

At Alice Holt Forest, 2013

We began by finding out what science research projects were taking place in the forests of England that we could develop some ideas around for a new work. This initial research, and discussions with the forestry commission team, lead us to learn about an Experimental Forest nearby where scientists have a 28m tall tower that takes measurements from the forest canopy. We learnt that a scientist based near there at Forest Research, Matt Wilkinson, was using some of the scientific instruments we came across in our initial proposal, so we were excited when we found out that he was up for meeting with us. 

 

The tower is located in the ‘Straits Enclosure’ and takes 4 measurements: wind, temperature, H2O, carbon take up and loss by trees. There are also two cameras which collect images of the canopy from above and below. 

 

At the top of the tower, there is a great sense of serenity, and an incredible view over the expanse of trees; we noticed how different the sounds were up there. During this trip we learnt a lot about the various instruments and how the data is collected and stored. The scientists plot diurnal and annual cycles, noting when the forest is a source of CO2 and when it acts as a sink for CO2. Matt told us that the trees sink more carbon dioxide in the day and become a strong source of CO2 in the night, with the trees taking up more carbon dioxide in the summer, and being a strong source of CO2 in the winter.

Polar plot graph showing measurements of the take up and loss of carbon dioxide from the forest trees, collected from the top of the Flux Tower

After our visit to the woods we had some discussions with fabricators (Millimetre) about what materials we could use to create the sculpture. Meanwhile we carried out some research around the visualisation techniques scientists in this field use to plot their data. Matt Wilkinson pointed us to some work his extended network produced, and one of the graphs for carbon dioxide plotting caught our attention. It uses a polar plot to represent several years’ worth of data overlaid. This type of data naturally comes encoded with markers of time; we are always exploring different ways to represent time beyond the linear so we liked the way that time was represented as a cyclical form, mirroring the shape of a tree trunk and tree rings within the waveforms. This particular diagram sparked something for us.

CO2 data ring 3D visualisation, sketch

We settle on an approach to use the year’s worth of data from the forest, mapped in a circle. We then started thinking about the data sets (the measurements of the CO2 exchange between the forest and the environment, wind velocity, temperature and moisture) as a sculptural medium and how we can ‘sculpt’ the data. We start with a circular strip of pure data, as a waveform; a beautiful 3-d object directly taken from the data. We then use this to make a range of test models for lathing the forms, extruding them;  We root our thinking in what would work in the real world, in a forest, wanting to find a form which doesn’t seem too familiar or comfortable.

Data rings lathe model, sketch

We start to translate the data, not just as waveforms but as 3-D objects. Out of these experiments came a ‘big dark globe’ that’s burnt all over: using charred wood, which has been shaped using a layering of the data sets. This approach creates something visceral from the data; something tangible rather than just a graphical representation of it. We re-visited Matt Wilkinson, looking over our ideas with him.  He was able to share with us a years’ worth of data for each of the four instruments, which we would then layer to create the interference patterns across the surface of the final sculpture.

Sketch for final sculpture

We also were able to access a year’s worth of image data from the hemispherical cameras imaging the canopy and forest floor. This imagery we found totally absorbing, showing the slow process of the changing seasons beautifully. This imagery was also revealing of the anomalies of the capturing process, which give the material a raw quality making you aware of the mechanics of the data collecting. This material later became part of an exhibition at Jerwood Projects space. 

Hemispherical camera capture

We also did some tests exploring making drawings using the data collected from flux tower, by carbonising paper and scratching into this with a computer plotter. 

365 days of data, 2013

 

150 year old fallen oak tree

We spent some time looking into what wood we could use for constructing the outdoor sculpture, from fallen trees from the research forest to off-the-shelf wooden planks, gaining an understanding of what properties the wood would need being exposed to the elements. Weighing-up budget, durability and the timeframe of the project we decided on using wood from a local timber suppliers.

3D sketch for final sculpture

We worked closely with the fabricators, supplying the datasets as 3D instructions for a 3d CNC cutter. This result was a surface carved of complex interference patterns produced by the waveforms and patterns in the data. We also worked with programmer Julian Weaver to develop custom digital techniques to translate the data from strings of numbers into three-dimensional forms. To find the right surface finish for the work millimetre carried out charring wood tests. The final structure being formed from a series of interlocking pentagons and hexagons, with undulations carved upon the surfaces which reveal the patterns inherent in the data. 

Material finishing tests

 

Forest data – CO2 take up and loss, water vapour, wind and temperature – translated as interlacing relief patterns

 

CNC sample

While the work was in production we worked closely with the team at the Forestry Commission to find a location for the sculpture to be sited. We looked at a number of sites with an understanding of the technical requirements of the installation of the work. We spent some time thinking about this, wanting the exact site to be somewhere people would happen across unexpectedly, and not that close to the entrance so if you came intentionally to find the work it would be an adventure to discover its location. 

Installing Cosmos, Alice Holt Forest

 

Cosmos, 2014

Once the work was installed it had this incredible sense of belonging; like it was born of the forest, which it was in many ways, shaped by the data which represents the elements vital to the growth of trees and the sustaining of the forest. We chose to call the work Cosmos, defined as a complete, orderly, harmonious system; with reference to the sources of the combined data which are so delicately balanced in order for the forest to exist, an incredible interdependent ecosystem.

Cosmos, Alice Holt Forest, 2014

Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship
Mineral Sciences Laboratory
Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History (2010)

Materials Processing Lab. at the Mineral Sciences Laboratory, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

We had spotted the materials processing lab on the Mineral Science Laboratories website and were keen to try and spend some time there, meeting scientists and researching and observing how they create an understanding of the physical origins of earthly matter. We applied to SARF (Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship) and then had to convince the scientists they should welcome artists into the lab.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History celebrating 100 years

The scientists in the mineral science laboratory had a vote on whether to invite artists in, after a few months of us being there we were invited to be in the 100 years photo, as we “had earned the right to be there”.

 

Geologist Bill Melson

We were in the lab every day, getting to know the people, collections, and their wider networks. A major subject of Bill Melson’s research was dedicated to listening to Arenal volcanoe, developing a vocabulary to document the sounds a volcano makes and see if it can help predict eruptions. He has a fascinating written and audio archive observing Arenal volcano in Costa Rica, we helped him to digitise some of his reel-to-reel audio recordings which also feature in Worlds in the Making.

Bill Melson’s volcano language

Mineralogist Jeff Post

Jeff Post has a deep understanding of the structure of mineral crystals and how and why they form the way they do. You can hear him describing these processes in our work Where Shapes Come From.

Volcanologist Rick Wunderman

There were several people who took us under their wing, one of them was volcanologist Rick Wunderman. His door was always open to us and like several others his kindness and generosity extended beyond the lab and our research endeavors.

Semiconductor residency log

On residencies and fieldwork trips we always keep a daily log of research and activities…”Asked Dick if he would read out some of his research notes, he said yeah!”

Sorena Sorenson and her Cathode Luminescence Imager

Sorena Sorenson let us lose on her Cathode Luminescence Imager. We spent many a evening locked in the lab creating time lapse animations of glowing mineral crystals.

Image captured by Semiconductor using the Cathode Luminescence Imager.

 

Ruth and scientist Roy Clarke in the Special Books library at Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

In the special books library with scientist Roy Clarke. He taught us about the Widmannstatten structure within meteorites.

Widmannstatten structure ‘nature print’

Joe in the rock collection at the Mineral Sciences Laboratory, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

We had free reign to explore the rock collection.

Rock collection, Fulgurites

Sample in the mineral collection

Sample from the mineral collection

Materials Processing Lab

 

Mineral Sciences Laboratory library

Volcano film archive, Mineral Sciences Laboratory

Volcano film archive waiting to be transferred. Scientists have been depositing their 16 mm films taken of volcanoes with the Smithsonian since the 1920’s! We helped advise on transferring them and they feature in our work Volcano Observatory.

Jonathan and Linda Weisenbach.

We had been patiently waiting for a meteor to be sliced so we could film the process, the time had arrived!

Mike Wise, Geologist at Mineral Sciences Lab

We worked our way round the laboratory meeting all the scientists.

Scientist Dick Fiske

We spent many hours filming Dick Fiske processing his lava samples from Hawaii, for our work Worlds in the Making.

Ruth in the meteorites collection

In the office provided to artists on the Smithsonian residency

 

Mineral slice

Exploring by bike

 

Exploring the meteorite collection

 

 

Mineral crystal in the Smithsonian collection

 

Mineral crystal in the Smithsonian collection

Smithsonian Artists Research Fellowship: https://www.si.edu/sarf
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: https://naturalhistory.si.edu/research/mineral-sciences
Smithsonian Mineral Sciences Research: https://naturalhistory.si.edu/research/mineral-sciences/research
Smithsonian Institution: https://www.si.edu

Gulbenkian Galapagos Artists’ Residency (2010)


In 2010 we went to the Galapagos Islands and mainland Ecuador as part of the Gulbenkian Galapagos Artist residency. We were developing an artwork which explores how humans observe, document and create an understanding of the origins of the physical world around us and we had been looking for an opportunity to visit volcanic landscapes and observe volcanologists, we were lucky to be offered this residency along with a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship at the Mineral Sciences Laboratory in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History later the same year. This research, explorations and filming became our artwork Worlds in the Making.

 

‘Sagitta’, the boat which took us around the Galapagos Islands

The residency involved spending 7 days on a boat with a Galapagos natural history guide, who took us to many of the Galapagos Islands to learn about the landscapes, animals, history of and environmental approach to the Galapagos Archipelago.

 

 

Golden rays in the waters of the Galapagos Islands

 

Heading up Volcan Chico

We stayed in Isla Isabela for a week and trekked up to volcanic landscapes at Volcan Chico and to the old Sulphur Mines, to film them.

Filming at the Sulphur Mines, Volcan Azufre

Filming at the old sulphur mines on Volcan Azufre, which appears in our work Worlds in the Making. Volcanologist Dick Fiske from the Mineral Sciences Lab can also be heard reading a description of a scientists exploration to, and study of, the sulphur mines at Volcan Azufre, which we found in the Charles Darwin Research Station Library (see below).

Volcan Azufre – sulphur mine science paper 1973

The library was a fascinating resource, every scientist who came to study on the Galapagos Islands were obliged to donate the scientific papers from their research conducted there.

Volcan Azufre

 

Charles Darwin Research station on the Island of Santa Cruz

We spent a week at the Charles Darwin Research station on the Island of Santa Cruz. Visiting scientists stay here to carry out studies into wide ranging subjects from invasive marine species to the restoration of ecosystems.

 

Scientists on the Galapagos Islands collecting data on the invasive blackberry

We spent a day with Jorge and his team, filming his processes of collecting data on the invasive blackberry. This became our work Indefatigable.

Seismometer at Quito University monitoring seismic activity of the Tungurahua Volcano.

Back on mainland Ecuador we had arranged to meet volcanologists at the University of Quito.

Images of Volcano Tungurahua, Ecuador

At the University of Quito we learned about one of the sites we would visit, the Volcano Observatory in Banos where they observe the active Volcano Tungurahua, you can see a drawing of it in this image.

View from Volcano Observatory towards Tungurahua (obscured by clouds!)

They use a mix of digital and analogue methods to study Tungurahua including this make shift technique for estimating the height of the volcanic plume in kilometres.

View of Tungurahua

 

Picture of seismograph

The scientist’s hand-make carbon paper for their seismographs, they taught us how to do it. They like using paper seismographs as they can hear when the needle frantically scratches the paper alerting them to an eruption.

Rancho Ojos del Volcan

During our time in Banos we spent a few nights in this hut, opposite the volcano, the clouds rarely cleared for any decent filming but the whole building would shake with the boom of eruptions.

Flier for impromptu screening in Banos, Ecuador

During our couple of weeks in Banos, the host where we were staying decided to organise a screening of our artworks at the only place in town which owned a projector. It was an incredible experience, a mixture of locals of all ages and tourists including some teenagers from a local village who would attend a computer club on a Saturday morning to access digital tools for making work. We talked about the works in English, someone would translate into Spanish and there would be all sorts of questions flying around, we remember it as a highly charged excitable affair, we hope we inspired.

 

The local village of Volcano

The University of Quito also sent us on trip with their engineers for a few days, who were mending one of the seismic stations. We were under falling ash and the camera lens became crunchy.

We visited Cotopaxi, the world’s highest active volcano. You must climatise to the height before attempting to climb it. We made it to the snow line. Others we were staying with made an overnight trek to the top which sounded pretty harrowing, it was incredibly windy.

Cotopaxi

 

Climbing Cotopaxi

 

Cycling back after walking up Cotopaxi, an active volcano in the Andes Mountains, located in Latacunga city, Ecuador

 

Lichen Rock, Ecuador

Galapagos Residency Publication: https://gulbenkian.pt/uk-branch/publication/galapagos/
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation: https://gulbenkian.pt/uk-branch/
Article on Semiconductor’s Galapagos residency: https://gulbenkian.pt/uk-branch/gulbenkian-galapagos-artists-residency/
Galapagos Conservation Trust: https://galapagosconservation.org.uk

Spectral Constellations

Spectral Constellations (video documentation excerpt), 2022

2022
variable dimensions / generative animations on LED mosaics
A Semiconductor work by Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt.

Spectral Constellations is a series of generative animations, driven by scientific data of young stars. This data, collected by scientists using a method called Spectroscopy, creates an understanding of structures around distant young stars, where gas and dust come together to form planets. Scientists study the light this matter emits using prisms to split it into its constituent wavelengths, revealing its elemental make-up. By analysing this data over time, spatial formations of the matter can be decoded.

Semiconductor have worked with this spectral data as a physical material, translating it into rings of light which resemble the gradiated discs of planetary and stellar formations. As the data ebbs and flows it introduces a sense of form and motion, waveforms merge and interfere revealing patterns and rhythms, and engage our human tendency towards pattern recognition. The fragmented LED mosaics provide partial windows from which the spectral data shifts and shimmers to create a raw visual experience.

Spectral Constellations was commissioned through a residency with the Planet Disk Connection group and DJCAD at the University of Dundee, Scotland. It has received funding from STFC (Science and Technology Facilities Council), “The planet-disk connection”, (grant number ST/S000399/1) and “Reading between the lines”, grant number (ST/V002058/1).

Thanks to the European Space Observatory archive (http://archive.eso.org/) whose spectral data was used in this artwork.

Special thanks to:
Aurora Sicilia Aguilar, University of Dundee
Justyn Campbell White, University of Dundee
Adam Lockhart, University of Dundee

Read about Semiconductor’s residency with the Planet Disk Connection group at University of Dundee here.

Acquired for the VU Art Collection – Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands, for permanent display in new research building.

Acquired by University of Dundee for their art collection.

Spectral Constellations, Creating the Commons, VU Gallery Amsterdam, 2023 (photo: Gert Jan van Rooij and the gallery)

Spectral Constellations, Creating the Commons, VU Gallery Amsterdam, 2023 (photo: Gert Jan van Rooij and the gallery)

Spectral Constellations, Mills Observatory, Dundee, Scotland, 2021 (photo: Malcolm Finnie)

Spectral Constellations, Schafhof European Art Forum Upper Bavaria, 2023

Fracture Patterns – Eartheater and Semiconductor

Fracture Patterns, excerpt

2019
Live multi-media
A Semiconductor work by Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt.

Fracture Patterns is a live collaboration between Semiconductor and New York musician and producer Eartheater. Combining Semiconductor’s large-scale multi-channel video works with an original live soundtrack and performance by Eartheater, Fracture Patterns culminates in a compelling theatrical production.

Exploring resonances between their respective practices Fracture Patterns brings together Eartheater’s approach to working with the materiality of sound, with Semiconductor’s work with scientific data to examine very fabric of the physical world. Fracture Patterns harnesses Semiconductor and Eartheater’s capacity to create works which blur the boundaries between digital and analogue to convey both a feeling of bespoke intimacy and of awe-inspiring humbling power.

Eartheater’s soundtrack conveys the noisy messy chaos of nature and becomes an extension of the elements in Semiconductor’s films, her voice like a disrupted signal struggling with the overwhelming power of nature. Fracture Patterns investigates the spectrum between empirical research and human emotion, between dissonance and harmony, the human and the machine.

Fracture Patterns in an original commission by Outlands Network, supported by Arts Council England and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

For more information about the tour go to www.outlands.network/fracture-patterns-eartheater-semiconductor

 

 

HALO

HALO video documentation, Art Basel, 2018

2018
installation / various
A Semiconductor work by Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt.

HALO is a large scale immersive artwork which embodies Semiconductor’s ongoing fascination with how we experience the materiality of nature through the lens of science and technology.

Taking the form of a large cylinder, the structure houses a 360-degree projection of scientific data while an array of 384 vertical wires are played by the same data, to produce the sound. The work draws the viewer into its centre in order to inhabit the results of particle-collisions, produced by experiments taking place at CERN, in Geneva, Switzerland.

The physics performed at the ATLAS detector probes and enhances our current understanding of the building blocks of matter and their interactions, contributing to new theories that better describe our universe. Semiconductor are the first to have received permission to work directly with raw data generated by the experiment. By using this data, the artists seek to convey the signature of the technology, the mark of the architecture of the experiment, or the presence of the scientist’s voice. They confront the viewer with the data before it has been processed for scientific consumption.

For many years the notion of engaging with scientific data as an artistic material has been central to the practice of Semiconductor, with a particular interest in how such information represents physical phenomena that exist beyond the limits of our daily experiences. Their projects stand as scientific and technological mediations of nature, giving data a physical form that transcends the matter it represents. The artists highlight the ways in which our experience of nature is influenced by technology and media, and ultimately question our place within it.

HALO has been conceived as an experiential reworking of the ATLAS detector, its experiments, and its data sets. The rotated cylindrical form and multiple cables are reminiscent of the architecture of the apparatus. The assemblage is suggestive of the technology and craftsmanship associated with scientific endeavour. Each collision in ATLAS occurs at close to the speed of light. Semiconductor have re-animated 60 of these, slowing time down immeasurably to reveal time in the ordinarily static data. Through doing this we are given space as viewers to analyse the mass of data. We naturally start to look for and see patterns in the data, and are given a sense of the immense task at hand for the scientists, in capturing, reading and processing the data.

Scientists often describe the particle collisions occurring at the LHC as recreating conditions thought to have existed in our universe shortly after the big bang; here Semiconductor have made an immersive experience of matter formation in the early universe that’s framed through the technological and scientific devices that are developed to study it. We are invited to consider the philosophical problems of our mediated understandings of science and of nature, while submitting ourselves completely to their technological sublime.

HALO was commissioned by Audemars Piguet for Art Basel 2018
Curated by Mónica Bello
In collaboration with CERN

HALO was fabricated by millimetre and Polyspace in collaboration with the artists.

Special thanks to:
Mónica Bello
Ash Brosnan
Dave Charlton
Matthew Ridsdale
Mark Sutton

Thanks:
Winka Angelrath, ATLAS collaboration, Frédérick Bordry, Julian Calo, Anita Hollier, Antonella De Santo, Steve Goldfarb, Peter Jenni, Rolf Landua, Stefano Maddelena, Andrew McPherson, millimetre, Sally Jane Norman, Matthew Ridsdale, Halldor Ulfarsson, Julian Weaver, Pippa Wells.

 

Film by Semiconductor documenting the making of HALO

 

HALO 0.1 / 0.2 / 0.3

HALO 0.1 / 0.2 / 0.3, 2021

2018
x3 CG animations on square screens, silent
A Semiconductor work by Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt.

Three animations made with raw data from the ATLAS detector at CERN particle physics laboratory, Geneva, Switzerland. Removed from its scientific framework, the data becomes a physical form in its own right, something to explore as an artistic medium. Each animation offers a different perspective of the data, presented on custom made square screens.

Acquired for Audemars Piguet Collection, CERN collection and 2 private collections.

As the World Turns

As the World Turns (still), 2018

2018
13.29
single channel
A Semiconductor work by Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt.

As the World Turns is a moving image science fiction, which explores humankind’s place in time and space, through the science of radio astronomy.

Filmed at Goonhilly Earth Station, a satellite communications site in Cornwall, England, As the World Turns visually explores the location through hand-held camera footage, creating an intimate experience and suggesting the presence of a human observer. We are given an impression of the sites history, the achievements once gained, future endeavours and of technology and nature co-existing. The film provides a sense of the human firmly grounded in the landscape, yet looking out into space, framed by our view from the Earth and the technology developed and employed to create an understanding of it.

The narrator endeavours to find her place in the physical universe. Weaving together the personal, technical, philosophical, and profound: scientific descriptions, observational diary-like entries, existential reflections, natural philosophies and rambling declarations. Whilst switching between objective and subjective viewpoints, she explores the different voices the human race employ to interpret the natural physical world.

Working with radio astronomers from CUGA (Consortium of Universities for Goonhilly Astronomy) Semiconductor have accessed and visualised raw radio astronomy data, which extracts information about the formations of stars and can be used to learn about the origins of the universe. The data reveals the human signature in the capturing process through visual artefacts, noise and interference in the radio signal, and is used to raise philosophical questions about how we experience nature through the languages of science and technology.

The monologue has been informed either by elements associated with the science and history of radio astronomy, ideas of measurement and human interpretation, or quoted directly from scientific writings. For example; References to the ‘first dish popping and banging’ were drawn from a publication by the Radio Society of Great Britain, titled Amateur Radio Astronomy. Giving a history of the science, it describes Grote Reber building one of the earliest radio astronomy parabolic reflectors in his back yard near Chicago, U.S.A. Reber described how great volumes of water pouring through the central hole during a rainstorm caused rumours among the neighbours that the machine was for collecting water and controlling the weather; descriptions of “observational studies of young circumstellar discs” were quoted directly from the science paper ‘Planet Earth Building-Blocks – a Legacy e-MERLIN Survey’; and lists of fauna found at the Goonhilly site form part of the Cornwall Council report on Goonhilly Downs as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The more discursive elements such as “How do we know when it makes sense?…”  are reminiscent of Buckminster Fuller’s voice, as he looks to the future and asserts his own world view.

Goonhilly Earth Station is in the process of transforming its original 26 metre antenna into a radio astronomy receiver. It will form part of the UK e-MERLIN network of radio dishes making it one of the most powerful radio telescopes in the World.

e-MERLIN data courtesy of Professor Melvin Hoare and Dr Katharine G. Johnston (University of Leeds). e-MERLIN is a National Facility operated by the University of Manchester at Jodrell Bank Observatory on behalf of STFC

Filming and sound: Semiconductor
Editor: Lucy Harris
Writer: Rowena Easton
Narrator: Rena Valeh
Music: Sarah-Jane Summers

Producer: Teresa Gleadowe
Assistant producer: Vickie Fear
Production assistants: Elsa Collinson and Josie Cockram
Accommodation: Kestle Barton

As the World Turns was commissioned by CAST for Groundwork in Cornwall in 2018
Produced by CAST

Groundwork was organised by CAST (Cornubian Arts & Science Trust) in partnership with Tate St Ives, Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange and Kestle Barton and was funded by an award from Arts Council England’s Ambition for Excellence scheme, with support from Freelands Foundation, Ampersand Foundation, Quercus Trust, Outset Contemporary Art Fund, Cornwall Council and Kestle Barton Trust.

As the World Turns was supported by funding for Groundwork from Arts Council England.

With assistance from:
Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd
Consortium of Universities for Goonhilly Astronomy (CUGA)

Special thanks to Teresa Gleadowe, Professor Melvin Hoare, Shaun Richardson
Thanks to: Dr Robert Beswick, Paula Bolton, Paul Dobbs, Dr Mark Gallaway, Goonhilly Heritage Society, Dr James Geach, Ian Jones, Dr Rob La Frenais, Des Prouse, Dr Mark Thompson, Piran Trezise

The script for As the World Turns contains extracts from the following:
Planet Earth Building-Blocks – a Legacy e-MERLIN Survey (PEBBLES)

Cornwall Council report on Goonhilly Downs as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) notified under Section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, as amended, 1993

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The View from Nowhere

The View from Nowhere (still), 2018

2018
13:11
HD single channel
A Semiconductor work by Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt.

The View from Nowhere is a single-channel moving image work which explores humankind’s place in nature through the science and technology of CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Geneva.

Driven by an interest in the material nature of our physical world and how we experience it through the lens of science and technology, Semiconductor go looking for the techniques that are developed at CERN which ask fundamental questions about nature, and the languages which ensue to make sense of it.

Through juxtaposing discussions around the application and processes of theoretical physics with filmed footage in CERN’s hi-tech workshops, Semiconductor explore the dichotomy that is revealed between the surprisingly creative pursuit of theoretically modelling our physical universe and the fixed/hard classical nature of producing instrumentation to test these notions. It reveals a sense of the scientific frameworks we develop to explore matter beyond the limits of human experience, whilst raising questions about our place in the larger nature of reality.

The title The View from Nowhere refers to the philosophical concept that science should remain an objective analysis of the natural world, if it is to be seen as having value.

The View from Nowhere was co-commissioned by Arts at CERN/ FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, Liverpool)/Le Lieu Unique, Nantes, France.

Special thanks to:

Luis Álvarez-Gaumé 
Arts at CERN
Mónica Bello
René Brun
Engineers and technicians of the Large Magnet Facility CERN and ERN workshop
Panos Charitos
Michael Doser
John Ellis
Gian Giudice
Lucy Harris Editor
Anita Hollier
Rolf Landua
Sebastien Luzieux
Michelangelo Mangano
Matthew McCullough
Pierre Moyret
Jeremi Niedziela
Brian Powell
Frédéric Savary
Matteo Solfaroli
Davide Tommasini
James Wells

Through the AEgIS

Through the Aegis (still), 2017

2017
16:34
HD single channel installation / silent
A Semiconductor work by Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt.

Through the AEgIS* is a space-time-lapse which explores how we make sense of nature through the language of science.

Captured by the AEgIS experiment at CERN, which looks at how antimatter responds to gravity, you see pions, protons and nuclear fragments flying out from ‘annihilation sites’; these particles ionize a photographic plate which when developed reveals their trajectories as varying sized tracks.

Using a special microscope with a very shallow depth of field, the photographic image is re-captured in several stages; by shifting the focal plane in 2 micron steps, and by scanning across each layer in 1000’s of sections, this reveals a depth to the emulsion of forty layers and details that would otherwise remain unseen to the naked eye.

Working with around 100,000 scans, Semiconductor have re-constructed the photographic image to produce an animation which re-introduces time back into the data, revealing the rhythms and artefacts of the capturing process. It gradually zooms out from one scan, whilst moving through the layers, to reveal all of the data.

A large print version of Through the AEgIS shows all of the data, visible at once, with time removed.

* Antihydrogen Experiment: Gravity, Interferometry, Spectroscopy (AEgIS)

Produced through Collide, an Arts at CERN International Artist Residency. Special thanks to Dr. Michael Doser, research physicist at CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research in Geneva.

 

Posted in Art

Parting the Waves

Parting the Waves, excerpt

2017
15:00
two channel HD moving image / three channel sound
A Semiconductor work by Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt.

Parting the Waves takes the visual language and method of quantum simulations, as a framework for exploring how science describes and attempts to harness the quantum realm.

Semiconductor have taken as a starting point simulated ‘surface plots’: realised as three co-ordinate graphs, they present mathematical computations of particle interactions, in a quantum system. The plots appear as varying degrees of undulating waveforms, created by the intensity of particles interactions being affected by distance, over time.  An angled hexagonal screen expands upon two moving image projections, becoming a graph-like object in the space, mimicking the system employed by scientists to present the simulations.

Sound drives the CGI work, generating and animating visual waveforms. Starting with Hertz: the standard unit for measuring frequency in cycles per second, specific tones have been selected which create harmonies and dissonances, to play with notions of phasing, shifting and interactions in a quantum system. As the tones shift, disturbing the system, so it responds visually, producing varying degrees of amplitude, wavelength and frequency which result in complex interference patterns. The colours are representative of the coding system scientists use, to identify specific parameters or patterns when model making.

Visual and audible noise is used to introduce the concept of coherence and de-coherence in a quantum system: the point at which a systems behaviour changes from that which can be explained by quantum mechanics to classical mechanics. Other details hint at mathematical tools and terms associated with the phenomena of quantum systems such as; superposition, entanglement and wave functions.

Quantum simulations are approximations of nature that are modelled and then compared to other models, to gradually build up a picture of the phenomena being studied. The layers of modelling are a language by which scientists can communicate their findings and get closer to nature. Semiconductor are interested in the extent to which these tools and scientific products bear the signature of a human hand. By making a work where you experience nature through the language that is made to study it, they want to question how our experiences of nature are mediated through science.

Parting the Waves was created through a FEAT (Future Emerging Art and Technology) Residency. FEAT is an initiative of eutema GmbH (AT), Stichting Waag Society (NL), and youris.com (BE). It has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 686527 (H2020-FETOPEN-2015-CSA).

Special thanks to:
Sabrina Maniscalco, University of Turku
Anton Buyskikh, University of Strathclyde, Scotland
Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford University, UK
Computational Nonlinear and Quantum Optics Group, Strathclyde University, Scotland
Turku Centre for Quantum Physics, University of Turku, Finland

Parting the Waves, solo Exhibition at Le Lieu Unique, Nantes, 2018. Photo: (c) Martin Argyroglo.

Parting the Waves, Gnration, Portugal, solo show, 2023

Where Shapes Come From

Where Shapes Come From (still), 2016

2016
9:00 / 9:50
two channel HD + single channel HD
A Semiconductor work by Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt.

Where Shapes Comes From is a moving image work which considers how science translates nature, on an atomic scale.

Filmed in the mineral sciences laboratory at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, a scientist goes about his daily work in rock and mineral preparatory labs; cutting up large meteorites and preparing mineral samples for scientific study. Accompanying this, mineralogist Jeff Post describes the coming together of atoms to form matter. He details formations of organised structures and patterns as if they are happening in real-time, in front of our eyes, transcending time and space.

Raw seismic data, collected from the land forming Mariana deep sea trench, has been converted directly into sound and controls computer generated animations, which are composited into the labs. They depict interpretations of visual scientific forms associated with atomic structures, and the technologies which capture them. Sitting alongside these animated formations are hand-made assemblages of discarded materials and other curiosities, which now bear human signatures. They unite in bringing a sense of playfulness and personal touch to the ordinarily rigorous framework of science.By combining these scientific processes, languages and products associated with matter formation in the context of the everyday, they become fantastical and strange encouraging us to consider how science translates nature and question our experiences of the physical world.

Filmed at the Mineral Sciences Laboratory, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C. during its 100th year.
Audio made from Mariana Trench seismic data courtesy of the IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology) Network.
Dialogue: Jeffrey E. Post, Geologist, Curator in Charge, Mineral Collection, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C., U.S.A.
Scientist: Jonathon Cooper

Supported by Arts Council England.
Co-commissioned by EDP Foundation and Phoenix Leicester.
lottery_Logo_Black RGB 3cm wide

 

Earthworks

Documentation of Earthworks at SonarPLANTA, 2016

2016
5 channel computer generated animation with 4 channel surround sound
A Semiconductor work by Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt.

Watch a film where Semiconductor discuss the ideas and processes behind Earthworks here (made by Tom Thistlethwaite/Fabrica Brighton): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkg38zms44Q&t=255s

Watch Semiconductor in Conversation with Laura McDermott, Creative Director of Attenborough Centre of the Creative Arts, on the occasion of Earthworks at Fabrica, solo exhibition, 2020

Earthworks is a five channel computer generated animation, which creates an immersive experience of the phenomena of landscape formation through the scientific and technological devices that are used to study it.  Masses of colourful layers are animated by the sound-scapes of earthquake, volcanic, glacial and human activity, recorded as seismic waves, which form spectacular fluctuating marbled waveforms.

Semiconductor have employed the scientific technique of Analogue Modelling, which uses layers of real world multi-coloured particles and application of pressure and motion to simulate tectonic and seismic forces. As the layers become deformed they reproduce the generation and evolution of landscapes in nature over thousands of years, revealing them to be in a constant state of flux.

Semiconductor have acquired seismic data captured as a result of land shifting and forming, from all over the world. There are four distinct sections to the work, each using a different set of seismic data. This includes; glacial, earthquake, volcano and human-made seismic activity captured at La Planta quarry, Spain, to represent the Anthropocene, a new geological era influenced by humans. The data has been translated to audio to form the soundtrack of the work, and simultaneously control the animation of the layers. The data as sound directly sculpts the image, re-animates the landscape, and reflects the symbiotic relationship between landscape formation and seismic vibrations. The seismic audio is rich and full of the intricacies of the dynamics of our planet in motion.

By using seismic data to control the masses of layers Semiconductor are not only playing with the idea that it is these forces that have shaped landscapes, but also that being an event that occurs beyond a human-time frame, landscape formation can only be experienced through scientific technological mediation of nature. It produces information about time, space and phenomena that no human consciousness could possibly have witnessed. It is as if we are watching hundreds of thousands of years played out in front of our eyes, enabling us to bear witness to events which ordinarily occur on geological time-frames.

By adopting the analogue modelling techniques, the work celebrates the revelatory capacities of modern science and technologies to create a kind of technological sublime, whilst simultaneously inviting viewers to consider the philosophical problems posed by such technologically mediated observations of imperceptible phenomena.

Earthworks is commissioned by SónarPLANTA
Produced by Advanced Music

Thanks to:
Fundació Sorigué
Sónar Festival/Advanced Music
Nigel Bax

University of Barcelona:
Dr Albert Casas Ponsati
Raul Lovera Carrasco
Mahjoub Himi Benomar
Dr. Josep Anton Muñoz
Oriol Ferrer

Cai Matthews
Jose Luis de Vicente
Salvador Rey Nagel

Seismic data courtesy of the Iris (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology) Consortium

Acquired for Sorigué Foundation Collection.

Earthworks, Sydney Biennale, 2018

 

Earthworks, Fabrica, Brighton, solo show, 2020. Photo: Fabrica/Tom Thistlethwaite

 

Film by Semiconductor documenting the making of Earthworks

FEAT

Semiconductor have been awarded a FEAT (Future Emerging Art and Technology) residency, a collaboration between eutema (Vienna), Waag Society (Amsterdam) and Youris (Brussels), working with artist/curator Anna Dumitriu. Over the next nine months they will carry out in depth research with a FET (Future Emerging Technology) science laboratory and produce new work as a result.

Band 9

Band 9, Pump House Gallery, London, 2015. Photo: Pump House Gallery/Photo Eoin Carey

2015
installation of 9 light boxes / various sizes
A Semiconductor work by Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt.

Images Courtesy Pump House Gallery/Photo Eoin Carey

Band 9 is an installation that considers nature within the framework of science. Nine light boxes show scientific cloud data, which have been captured from space by a remote sensing satellite, orbiting the Earth. Using optical sensors it collects reflected light in various wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. By focusing on very thin slices of these, scientists can pinpoint individual phenomena such as the band we see here, which is designed to reveal high-altitude clouds called Cirrus.

In this instance, scientists are not interested in the clouds themselves, but in removing their shadows and wispy texture from their data: whose presence obscures the real information they are trying to collect. Semiconductor have embraced these redundant images for their power to offer new ways of seeing a familiar place. Re-contextualised in this way and bearing the signatures of science, the images have become a kind of technological sublime.

What we see in the images is dictated by the capturing technology; the satellite scans in 115 mile wide swathes orbiting the earth from north to south and anything beyond the dedicated wavelengths is swallowed into a black void. The angle the light boxes are installed reflects the incline the data has been captured and archived at. By presenting the raw satellite data using techniques informed by the capturing technology Semiconductor are, exploring how technologies that are made to study nature, mediate our experiences and understanding of it.

Band 9 is commissioned by Pump House Gallery, London.
Data available from the U.S. Geological Survey.