20 Hz (2011) - Semiconductor

Co-commissioned by Lighthouse and Arts Santa Monica.
Part of Invisible Fields: Geographies of Radio Waves

October 2011

20 Hz (2011) - Semiconductor

20 Hz, 2011


Artwork: "20 HZ"

Artist: Semiconductor

Year: 2011

Co-commissioned by Lighthouse.

Part of: Invisible Fields (2011) exhibition, Solar Systems (2011) exhibition

Press: It's Nice That - Semiconductor


20 Hz is a 5 minute video which uses data collected by the CARISMA radio array. CARISMA (Canadian Array for Realtime Investigations of Magnetic Activity) is an array of magnetometers which study the Earth’s magnetosphere. 20 Hz is an interpretation of a magnetic storm occurring in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. The CARISMA data – captured at the frequency of 20 Hertz – is interpreted as audio, allowing us to hear the “tweets” and “rumbles” caused by the interaction of solar wind with the Earth’s magnetosphere. The visual element of the film is generated directly by the sound. Tangible and sculptural forms emerge suggestive of scientific visualisations. As different frequencies interact both visually and aurally, complex patterns emerge to create interference phenomena that probe the limits of our perception. The Earth's atmosphere comes to life in this moving image, as it shows us the relationship between radio waves and sound.

The film went viral, being featured in dozens of blogs around the world, being selected as a Staff pick on Vimeo, and has had over a quarter of a million views online. It was awarded the inaugural Samsung Art+ Prize in 2012. Director of The Arts Catalyst, Nicola Triscott has described the piece as “visually reminiscent of some of Woody and Steina Vasulka’s experimental video works”.


Semiconductor is Brighton-based artist duo, Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt. 20Hz is emblematic of their ongoing investigation of the natural world, which has resulted in major works on astronomy (Brilliant Noise, 2006), and geology (Worlds in the Making, 2011). In 2011, Lighthouse curated Solar Systems an exhibition of Semiconductor’s astronomy-themed work. Their unique approach has won them fellowships and residencies in significant scientific locations such as NASA’s Space Sciences Lab, the Galapagos Islands and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Their work is part of several international public collections and has been exhibited globally including Venice Biennale, The Royal Academy, Hirshhorn Museum, BBC, ICA and the Exploratorium.


t was commissioned for the exhibition, Invisible Fields: Geographies of Radio Waves which showed at Arts Santa Monica in Barcelona from October 2011 until March 2012. The commission was supported by the British Council.

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