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Meet Semiconductor: The Mad Scientists Of The Visual Art Realm

Semiconductor are a visual art duo who don’t see art and science as two different disciplines on either side of the creative coin. Instead, like a long line of artists before them, epitomized in the figure of the original Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci, they see the two practices as sharing many similar ideas. So their work explores natural phenomena, the idea of a world in constant fluctuation, and gives form to the seemingly invisible—the technical and the molecular—while marrying sound and image to create fascinating experimental films.

They’ve been an influential force in visual art, and their films sit in a sci-artistic wonderland somewhere between animation and documentary, utilizing scientific equipment and data to create their art, showing how one can inform the other and vice versa. Currently exhibiting Semiconductor: Worlds in the Making at FACT in Liverpool (a project based on their time in the Galapagos Islands), they’re also one of our new Creators.

Here’s a very brief introduction to their incredible body of work:

Magnetic Movie (2007)

Commissioned and broadcast by Channel 4 in the UK, the film was shot at the NASA Space Sciences Laboratory, Berkley. Taking the idea that invisible magnetic fields could be seen, they create a firework-like display of “chaotic ever-changing geometries.” Using real VLF audio recordings that control the evolution of the waves, writer Douglas Kahn said it “tapped into a new and ancient aesthetic of turbulence.”

Brilliant Noise (2006)

In this sound-film they use open-access archive footage of the sun during their fellowship at NASA to make a crackling, flaring film showered in white noise. Interestingly enough, they chose to keep the footage as raw as possible in order to “translate areas of intensity within the image brightness into layers of audio manipulation and radio frequencies”.

200 Nanowebbers (2005)

Double Adaptor‘s live soundtrack generates molecular shapes and forms using custom software that creates the illusion of being immersed in a nano-world. Using a human-computer dynamic to create this world, a technique they’ve called “Artificial Expressionism,” it could be seen as a precursor to the generative filmmaking we see so much of today.

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