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Art and science — Magnetic Movie and The Way Things Go


Steve and I saw this at the Hirshhorn — Magnetic Movie by the British duo, Ruth Jarman and Joseph Gerhardt who call themselves Semiconductor (click the link to see the whole movie at their website. And see Libby’s post on the movie which showed at Philly’s Screening Video last May.)

The blurb from the Hirshhorn says Semiconductor was in residence at NASA’s Space Sciences Lab at UC Berkeley when they made it. We thought it was colorful; and the crackling sounds were effective (they tapped into my hatred for static electricity). But ultimately the piece is an illustration for the NASA scientists’s words. For my money, it needs to go further and maybe include some touch of humor to lift it up beyond mere visualization and special effects.

Then, upstairs, we encountered a screening of Fischli and Weiss’s The Way Things Go. It turned Magnetic Movie into a dish rag (thank you Alex Katz for that perfect metaphor). The F&W piece (from 1988) deals with mechanical science — the real world of objects acted upon by gravity and other forces. It’s as deadpan as a Buster Keaton skit, and combines the mad scientist of Frankenstein and the suspense of Alfred Hitchcock.

I’m not sure the Hirshhorn curators wanted us to make the comparison but it was inevitable.

Semiconductor will speak about their work at the Hirshhorn Friday, Nov. 6 at 7 pm.