Saturday was World AIDS Day, and the ‘Communities For Life’ photography exhibition which is on display outside the library in Jubilee Square until the end of this week is well worth a visit. From a simple photo of a nameless individual’s positive HIV test, to a scene of children orphaned by AIDS, it’s impossible not to be moved.
But for thought-provoking art of an entirely different kind, I headed to church over the weekend. The Holy Trinity Church in Ship Street was deconsecrated in 1996 and is now a contemporary art gallery called Fabrica. Rather that than a bingo hall, that’s what I say. They opened a new exhibition on Friday which I was keen to see (I'm quite the culture vulture), so I headed down there at lunchtime on Saturday. I'd have arrived earlier but they don't open up until 11:30am. I’m a lot like that in the morning.
The exhibition turned out to be brilliant. Well, ‘Brilliant Noise’. Artists Ruth Jarman and Joseph Gerhardt, who call themselves Semiconductor (possibly because 'Jarman & Gerhardt' sounds too much like a firm of solicitors) spent five months at NASA's Space Sciences Laboratory in California, sifting through the archives and collecting photos of "some of the sun's finest unseen moments", which they then put together into a film. Whether that constitutes art, or merely an episode of 'The Sky at Night', I'm not sure, but it’s undeniably spectacular.
The film was projected onto three huge screens which ran down one side of the gallery, and was accompanied by an almost deafening mixture of white noise, radio frequencies and general weirdness. It was all very hypnotic, and as I stood there immersed in the swirling, pulsating flashes of solar winds and aural interference, I did start to wonder if it was all just a subliminal attempt to get me to buy their DVD. In fact, standing in the middle of a church, watching what looks like a mind-control film, you do start to feel like you've joined some kind of religious cult. And with the number of flashing images on display, it's not really art for epileptics. But despite all that, I was very impressed.
Having studied the sun for ten minutes without once spotting a page 3 girl, I was directed by staff to re-enact the Wizard of Oz by going behind the screens, where another two Semiconductor films were on display, complete with headphones to block out the sun. The first was ‘Do You Think Science...’, a twelve-minute film of American space physicists being asked abstract questions about science. It was all very interesting, not least because it forces you to reconsider your definition of art.
‘Magnetic Movie’, on the other hand, was more obviously artistic, and my personal favourite of the three. During their stay in America, Jarman and Gerhardt spent time wandering around NASA's laboratories with a video camera, before animating the resulting footage with colourful visual representations of magnetic fields and moving particles, set to recordings of space scientists describing their discoveries. It's kinda trippy (I'm sure Brian Sewell uses that phrase), but amazingly beautiful.
‘Magnetic Movie’ was part of a commission for Channel 4, and was shown on TV at midnight on Sunday, but if you missed the chance to see visually stunning animations of magnetic fields bouncing around laboratories and floating towards you down a corridor, then you’ve got until January 13th to get down to Fabrica. Just don’t arrive too early.