Style & Arts: Studio Style & Arts

November 23, 2008

What Powered a 'Magnetic' Attraction

Working under the moniker "Semiconductor," British-based artists Ruth Jarman and Joseph Gerhardt have been experimenting in film and performance since the late 1990s. Their "Magnetic Movie," a faux documentary, was born during an artists' residency at the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley. To create the film, Jarman and Gerhardt dubbed scientist interviews over lab footage that was animated by the artists to evoke magnetic fields. Though almost nothing in "Magnetic Movie" corresponds to real phenomena, Semiconductor presents a nearly plausible scientific playground.

Recently the artists, partners in life and in art, responded to the work and their process with this text.

We spent six months pestering the scientists. It was an intensive shared experience where we spent all day at the lab interviewing, researching, discovering and experimenting.

The real collaboration was between us and the scientists. They were generous with their time and knowledge, sharing their discoveries on magnetic fields and trusting us to make our own interpretation of their language of science. It was never intended to be an accurate illustration of their work, but one which played with the structure of their findings.

Over the 10 years or so we've been working together, our approach, intentions, ideas and techniques have become quite symbiotic. When you're working this closely all day every day, you are in constant communication -- throwing back and forth ideas in a process that can move forward very quickly. When you're doubled up, you put your ideas out there and there are many more permutations.

With each artwork, we constantly swap roles. It isn't as clear-cut as saying "One does the sound and one does the image." We have continuously been developing our own language as Semiconductor and it's something that exists as part of each of us.

-- Interview conducted and condensed by Jessica Dawson

"Magnetic Movie" screens in the Black Box at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Independence Avenue at Seventh Street SW, through Dec. 14. For information, call 202-633-1000 or visit

PHOTOS: Semiconductor and Regis D'Audeville WEB EDITOR: Stephanie Merry -

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