HALO is a large scale immersive artwork which embodies Semiconductor’s ongoing fascination with how we experience the materiality of nature through the lens of science and technology.
Taking the form of a large cylinder, the structure houses a 360-degree projection of scientific data while an array of 384 vertical wires are played by the same data, to produce the sound. The work draws the viewer into its centre in order to inhabit the results of particle-collisions, produced by experiments taking place at CERN, in Geneva, Switzerland.
The physics performed at the ATLAS detector probes and enhances our current understanding of the building blocks of matter and their interactions, contributing to new theories that better describe our universe. Semiconductor are the first to have received permission to work directly with raw data generated by the experiment. By using this data, the artists seek to convey the signature of the technology, the mark of the architecture of the experiment, or the presence of man’s voice. They confront the viewer with the data before it has been processed for scientific consumption.
For many years the notion of engaging with scientific data as an artistic material has been central to the practice of Semiconductor, with a particular interest in how such information represents physical phenomena that exist beyond the limits of our daily experiences. Their projects stand as scientific and technological mediations of nature, giving data a physical form that transcends the matter it represents. The artists highlight the ways in which our experience of nature is influenced by technology and media, and ultimately question our place within it.
HALO has been conceived as an experiential reworking of the ATLAS detector, its experiments, and its data sets. The rotated cylindrical form and multiple cables are reminiscent of the architecture of the apparatus. The assemblage is suggestive of the technology and craftsmanship associated with scientific endeavour. Each collision in ATLAS occurs at close to the speed of light. Semiconductor have re-animated 60 of these, slowing time down immeasurably to reveal time in the ordinarily static data. Through doing this we are given space as viewers to analyse the mass of data. We naturally start to look for and see patterns in the data, and are given a sense of the immense task at hand for the scientists, in capturing, reading and processing the data.
Scientists often describe the particle collisions occurring at the LHC as recreating conditions thought to have existed in our universe shortly after the big bang; here Semiconductor have made an immersive experience of matter formation in the early universe that’s framed through the technological and scientific devices that are developed to study it. We are invited to consider the philosophical problems of our mediated understandings of science and of nature, while submitting ourselves completely to their technological sublime.