FACT Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt


Data, digital, and web art have inherited the tendency to demystify, détourne, and decode their medium’s dominion. The studied and stunning videos by the media-art duo Semiconductor observe a more optimistic bargain between information and the instruments that transmit it.

Active since 1997, Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt create videos, installations, and audiovisual projector performances that can be more comfortably aligned with (but not confined to) a long tradition of experimental science films than the vagaries of New Media. Semiconductor transposes the rarefied metrics of magnetic fields, geological vibrations, and planetary orbits into cross-pollinations of audio ciphers, software visualizations, and schematized camera-play. In the jaw-droppers Black Rain (09) and Brilliant Noise (06), oblique outer-atmospheric snapshots and static-laden solar surveillance meld into experiences all the more cosmic for their man-made myopy. Neither material abstractions nor outright appropriations, the accidental language of digital artifacts and mechanical noise in these works becomes part of the story.

Limited peepholes on the empirical, rejiggered and recombined into sublime visual manifestations, bespeak a generative relationship between an image of the world and our means of picturing it. Cities become strata of sculpturalized data, acoustic frequencies inscribe undulating natural landscapes (Earthmoves, 06), weather patterns spawn digital architecture.

Holding science and technology in separate but equal esteem, Semiconductor’s project might be considered counter-Heisenberg: if our construction of the world is at best an imperfect proxy, what use in damning the tools?