The bad boys of geology – at least of late – volcanoes are much more than pesky, ‘plane-grounding, ash-spewing mountains in need of a little Gaviscon. They’ve shaped us. Formed land from sea, fire from ice. And their savage beauty forms the white-hot heart of the latest exhibition at FACT.

Semiconductor, aka Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt are a British artist duo who combine film, scientific data, performance and animation: moving images, which explore the material nature of our world and how we experience it.

The exhibition is part immersive installation, part multi-channel exploration of geomorphology – and a celebration of nature’s crown jewels: the minerals, gems and crystals formed under mind-boggling pressures beneath our feet.

Worlds in the Making details Ruth and Joe’s travels to the volcanic regions of the Galapagos Islands and South America. Working with volcanologists at the Smithsonian Mineral Sciences Laboratory, the piece slaps us right into the fiery heart of these broken, elemental and otherwordly landscapes.

In the Mineral Crystal Animations, three video installations depict jewel-like animations of mineral crystals, while the Volcano Film Archive is a multi-channel exploration of our complicated relationships with natural phenomena.

In Semiconductor’s world, the laws that usually hold the planet in place (processes that grind mountains to stumps, turn liquids to rock and ocean to land), are broken up, transported and reconfigured: allowing us the chance to experience these phenomena like some curious, playful God.

You’re left in no doubt – vulcanology is as much art as science. And the bizarre and dangerous lengths some go to for a quick geological thrill reveal Top Gear presenters driving 4x4s up the side of Icelandic volcanoes for the braying wimps they truly are.

Experienced together, these pieces form a love story to the living rock. And we’re smitten. SevenStreets had a quick chat ahead of the show – which opens this Friday.

Science still lags behind arts and humanities in the UK. Is this your attempt at putting a positive spin on the stuff beneath our feet?

Nowadays we are more interested in the Material Girl than the material world. There comes a point though where we need a greater perspective on our world and through this we find ourselves in new places.

With climate change, sinking atolls and wild fires a hot topic, does Worlds in the Making address the issue of how volatile and fragile our planet is?

In Worlds in the Making there’s a view of a planet where life co-exists alongside humans but ultimately we hope to paint a picture that deals with geological timeframes as opposed to human history.

During the making or the work we spent tome in the Galapagos island, made famous by Charles Darwin’s visit and Theory of Evolution. These strange islands are full of wildlife that have never learned or evolved to fear predators such as humans, so they behave as though you barely exist and just ignore as you walk by. This hints at an alternative human history where we fearlessly live alongside one another.

It’s a rare person (from the UK at least) who gets to experience, first hand, the birth of new landforms but, once experienced, how does it shift your perceptions of terra firma?

To witness an active volcano is an awe inspiring experience. It makes you realise the world we live on is still forming and part of much greater things than us.

We’re all a little too hermetically sealed off from nature at its rawest. Why is it important for us to get up close and personal with it all?

Geology was born in Britain, with scientists such as Charles Lyell, yet strangely we live in such a stable part of the world without any significant earthquakes or active volcanoes. Personally for us it’s interesting to witness something that has been part of the history of all landscapes and must be so familiar to so many others around the world.

Semiconductor: Worlds in the Making

FACT, Liverpool 

01 July – 11 September 

Galleries 1, 2, Media Lounge and Public Spaces 


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