Multicoloured circles form waves across a black backdrop

Semiconductor – Where Shapes Come From

10 Feb - 26 Mar 2017
Where Shapes Come From is a film installation by Semiconductor which considers how science translates nature on an atomic scale.

In 2017, we co-commissioned Where Shapes Come From, an immersive video installation by renowned artist duo Semiconductor. The piece considers how science translates nature on an atomic scale, following a scientist going about his daily work in rock and mineral 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.

The co-commissioners for Where Shapes Come From were the EDP Foundation. The work has gone on to show around the world, including exhibitions at MAAT, Lisbon, The Biennale of Sydney and Le Lieu Unique, Nantes (images from the installation at Le Lieu Unique and The Biennale of Sydney are featured below).

A group of people in silhouette watch a large screen showing shapes formed by white circles against a black backdrop A group of people in silhouette watch a large screen showing footage from a science lab A large projection screen in a darkened room, showing a pattern of white and grey circles overlaid by a small clump of red spheres A large projection screen in a darkened room, showing a set of colourful round shapes

Semiconductor is Brighton-based artist duo Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt. They have been working together for over 20 years, exploring the material nature of the world and how we experience it through the lens of science and technology. Some of their best known earlier works include Brilliant Noise from 2006, an animation made up of raw solar observations, and 20 Hz from 2011, a moving image piece that interprets the sounds generated by a geo-magnetic storm in the Earth’s upper atmosphere into tangible forms and complex patterns. Videos of both works are available to view below.

Since their exhibition at Phoenix, Semiconductor have continued to work internationally, creating HALO in 2018 – a huge audio-visual installation that allows the viewer to inhabit the results of particle-collisions produced by experiments taking place at CERN, and undertaking solo retrospective exhibitions in Chile and New Zealand. A video of the HALO installation is featured below.