Semiconductor is UK artist duo Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt. Over twenty years they have become known for an innovative body of work, which explores the material nature of our world and how we experience it through the lenses of science and technology. They occupy a unique position in the art world, blending, in philosophically compelling ways, experimental moving image techniques, scientific research and digital technologies.
Man’s experience of the physical world is central to the work of Semiconductor; taking us beyond the everyday rigid, static matter bound by the limits of human perception. By extending vision, hearing, time and scale through the use of technologies, by transcending physical constraints, Semiconductor creates first person experiences. These disrupt our everyday assumptions about reality and encourage us to step outside our fixed vantage points in space and time, to experience places that are in a constant state of flux. Through a contemporary reworking of the sublime the work is at once both humbling and captivating.
Semiconductor’s works often evolve from intensive periods of research spent in science laboratories, including CERN, Geneva (2015); NASA Space Sciences Laboratory, UC Berkeley, California (2005); Mineral Sciences Laboratory, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (2010); and the Charles Darwin Research Station, Galapagos (2010). By examining the techniques and processes that each discipline employs to understand the physical matter of the world, Semiconductor reveal the flaws and ruptures within scientific data, exposing the human signature which is ascribed within scientific findings and emphasizes the presence of the observer. Through making visible the tools and materials used by scientists Semiconductor observes the work of the observers, drawing attention to the ways in which science mediates our experiences of nature.
Each work employs a specific technical approach, whether it’s developing custom tools and processes to expand on space, time and matter, or adopting the scientific tools, language and philosophies that study them. For HALO (2018), Semiconductor developed custom-made mechanical sound apparatus to create an immersive experience of matter formation in the early universe, framed through the technological and scientific devices that are developed to study it; Parting the Waves a moving image installation, takes the visual language and method of quantum simulations, as a framework for exploring how science describes and attempts to harness the quantum realm. Sound plays an important role in Semiconductor’s work. The artists have developed a unique approach to working with it as a physical material, whereby it becomes a sculptural tool, introducing time and motion to the seemingly static world around us. In works such as Earthworks (2016) a five-channel computer generated animation, seismic data converted into to sound is employed to create an immersive experience of the phenomena of landscape formation, through the animation of the modelling techniques that are used to study it. 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. Equally, through a unique application of technologies, Semiconductor has formed a distinct aesthetic. This aesthetic transcends the tools used to make it, creating new forms of expression that challenge the language of moving-image work and inspires others.
Semiconductor have exhibited their work internationally, selected exhibitions include Semiconductor, The 14th Media Art Biennale Santiago, National Center of Contemporary Arts, (CNAC), Santiago, Chile 2019 (solo show); The Technological Sublime, City Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand, 2019 (solo show); Quantica, CCCB, Barcelona, 2019; HALO, The 4th Audemars Piguet Commission at Art Basel, 2018; The View from Nowhere, Le Lieu Unique, Nantes, France, 2018 (solo show); SUPERPOSITION: Equilibrium and Engagement, 21st Biennale of Sydney, Australia 2018; Groundwork, CAST, Cornwall, 2018; No Such Thing As Gravity, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan, 2017; Earthworks, Sonar Planta, Sonar Festival, Barcelona, 2016 (solo show); The Universe and Art, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan, 2016; Infosphere, ZKM, Karlsruhe, 2016; Quantum of Disorder, Museum Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich, 2015; Da Vinci: Shaping the Future, ArtScience Museum, Singapore, 2014; Let There Be Light, House of Electronic Arts, Basel 2013 (solo show); Field Conditions, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2012; International Film Festival Rotterdam, 2012; New York Film Festival: Views from the Avant Garde, 2012; Worlds in the Making, FACT, Liverpool 2011 (solo show); Earth; Art of a Changing World, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2009 and Sundance Film Festival, 2009.
Collections include: Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC USA; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Sorigué Foundation, Spain; Audemars Piguet, Switzerland, private collections.