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SEMICONDUCTOR - WORLDS IN FLUX
[DVD]

SEMICONDUCTOR - WORLDS IN FLUX

2007, Fat Cat Records FATSP14DVD

DVD and inlay in NEAR MINT condition

A DVD-video of short films, Art-works, music videos and live cinema documentation'

  1. Brilliant Noise (*)
  2. the sound of microclimates
  3. Múm - green grass of tunnel
  4. Inaudible cities
  5. strata
  6. QT - qqq
  7. Mini epochs
  8. Sonic Inc. (extracts)
  9. Digital Anthrax
  10. Earthquake Films
  11. Do you think science...
  12. All the time in the world
  13. Double adaptor... 200 nanowebbers

(*)
Including special made alternate soundtracks for Brilliant Noise by:
Antenna Farm, Disinformation, Thomas Dimuzio, ensemble, Gaeoudjiparl, Robert Hampson, Iris Garrelfs, Our brother the native, Max Richter, the twilight sad, Christian Vogel.

Ruth Jarman and Joseph Gerhardt, who together comprise the video art outfit known as Semiconductor, spent time in 2005 as official artists in residence at the NASA Space Sciences Laboratory at UC Berkeley.  The fact that NASA has an artists in residence program appears to be the kind of thing that Republicans find satisfaction in bitching about, as evinced by a transcript of a debate over an amendment to shut such programs down. 

The transcript from the 2005 debate finds Indiana Republican Rep. Chris Chocola saying, “Nowhere in NASA’s mission does it say anything about advancing fine arts or hiring a performance artist.” This criticism is roughly tantamount to saying, “what the sam-hell does outer space have to do with art?” Semiconductor’s Worlds in Flux, a DVD of striking and cerebral visual explorations, effectively answers this question. 

Worlds in Flux is a collection of five years’ worth of Semiconductor’s visually scintillating meditations on the nature of environments.  Divided into three sections, the DVD features three music videos, four cinema pieces, and six short films.  Each one ties music or ambient noise to the images on screen, conceptually kind of like Koyaanisqatsi (though visually, nothing like the Philip Glass/Godfrey Reggio collaboration.) As with Koyaanisqatsi, you can dig these short films under the influence of your preferred mind altering substance, or spend a lot of time mulling over their implications with a clear head. 

The DVD begins with “Brilliant Noise”, a piece done by Semiconductor during their tenure at the Space Sciences Laboratory, which sets the tone for the collection.  The piece features black and white footage of sunspots, obfuscated by static and an epileptic strobe.  This close up view of the sun is accompanied by a minimal soundtrack that trembles and screams as bursts of light pulsate on a swirling black surface.  In the hands of Semiconductor, the imagery feels alternately celestial and organic, if you didn’t know you were looking at footage of solar explosions, you could easily think that you were watching some biological process under a microscope.  “Brilliant Noise” teases out an obscure aesthetic connection between celestial bodies and human ones, one that you’d be hard pressed to find conveyed elsewhere. 

For Semiconductor, some worlds are bigger than others.  Worlds in Flux explores micro and macro-environments, some rooted in reality and some completely synthetic, making the familiar seem fascinating and the fantastic seem familiar. Where “Brilliant Noise” takes a close-up look at something gigantic, pieces like “The Sounds of Microclimates” examine the infinitesimally small, with what sounds like an ultra-sensitive microphone picking up and playing with the subtle noises generated in an average, everyday environment.  “All the Time in the World” depicts a few idyllic natural environments with a sheen that makes them seem not quite real.  Lights scurry about randomly over their surfaces, and they begin to vibrate in time with the throb of background noise, as if the scenes are a stretched over an oscilloscope.  The interplay between audio and visual stimulation is a constant thread in Worlds in Flux, as much in the films and cinema pieces as it is in the videos that Semiconductor have created for various experimental music acts. 

The music videos included on the DVD cover the same territory as Semiconductor’s other explorations.  The wistful, unsettling ambience of Icelandic act mum’s “Green Grass of Tunnel” is rendered as a massive flock of birds swarming around a mountainous dream-environment.  Double Adaptor’s “200 Nanowebbers” sounds like something off of AFX’s Analogue Bubblebath played backwards, and is represented on screen by bug-like objects flitting around, joining together with a mass of whip-like dendrites that in turn grow pulsating, pastel crystalline structures.  The camera moves around in an infinite space, surveying the landscape as it is generated.  In QT?’s 30 seconds or so of screaming abrasive noise, we see the curves of the static ripping around on a rolling Lego block surface. 

The only special feature available on Worlds in Flux is the choice to select numerous multiple soundtracks as accompaniment to “Brilliant Noise” to make for an altered viewing experience.  There’s not much information available on the DVD about the original context of the works, but the booklet that it comes with features insightful descriptions into the intents behind the works. 

With all the stunning original imagery on Worlds in Flux, the most entrancing meditation presented is probably the least graphically intensive one.  In “Do You Think Science…” The film features spliced interviews of space physicists responding to a nebulous question posed by Jarman and Gerhardt.  It becomes apparent, as the interviewees mull over the question, that the question they’re being posed is if science can explain everything.  These scientists, at the top of their field, respond with a kind of contemplative speculation you’d expect from philosophers and artists.  This breaking down of the boundaries between the hard sciences and the fine arts is chillingly profound, and shows that it’s no coincidence that Semiconductor were chosen as artists in residence. Space physicists and avant garde artists like Semiconductor both explore their respective spaces, and on this DVD there’s room for those two worlds to intersect.

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