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Sunday, 3 July 2011

I'm sure I've mentioned it on here a time or two but FACT is one of my very favourite places. Not only is it the nicest cinema in Liverpool by far but it shows a cracking range of films. Double bill of The Princess Bride and Labyrinth last week? Oh yes indeedy. If you're very lucky you'll get to see your film in the Box which is a mini screening room with seating on little purple sofas.

It also has a lovely bar and cafe and amazing gallery spaces where they show free exhibitions. I am guilty of not going into the galleries as often as I should but courtesy of my FACT Fifty membership, I was invited to a preview of the new exhibition on Thursday. It's by Semiconductor, artist duo Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt, and explores the material nature of the world and how we experience it through science. It's hard to describe the impact of it other than "wow."

The downstairs gallery houses Worlds in the Making which is a three screen media work inspired by volcanology and seismic data. It initially seems to be a stunningly shot mini documentary of volcanoes and scientists at work.

I'd have been quite happy with just that because the photography is amazingly beautiful. But they did all sorts of other clever things too. The part that most grabbed me is immensely difficult to capture in a photo. They did something with sound waves and turned them into CG effects which were worked into the landscape images and made it pulse and move in really rather thrilling fashion. Cue more ooh-ing from me.

Not being of a scientific turn of mind I had no idea how they achieved this, or the set of video images out in the public areas. I loved the latter though. According to the website (because they can explain it much better than I can), it is "a series of digital mineral crystal animations. They are generated and animated by sound recordings of ice crystals by translating the waveforms into algorithms that create and control form and motion." As I said, clever.

The screen basically starts off like this:

and ends up like this, with much pulsing and wibbling along the way as the various bits of crystal are formed. Beautiful and interesting:

Upstairs is less technical but equally fascinating. Inferno Observatory is made up of 16mm archive footage discovered at the Smithsonian - one huge screen of an erupting volcano and lots of smaller cube screens with clips of scientists working in the field. I was very taken with one man with a jaunty hat who seemed very pleased to be in front of the camera but sadly my photos of him all turned out terribly.

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They've also got a smaller area inspired by the exhibition and produced in conjunction with a local primary school. It has science fair type activities to have a go at. So much fun. Why didn't we get to make volcanoes in school? The only thing I remember doing in science at that age is the Mentos/Coke experiment and we weren't allowed anywhere near that. It was basically just an excuse for the teachers to leap about the playground getting each other wet.

If it can all keep this decidedly non-scientific girl interested then it's definitely doing something right. I'm going straight back to watch the Worlds in the Making film again.


  1. That looks fascinating! I'm with you on the non-scientific side, but if it makes pretty patterns I'm there all the way. xxx

  2. For fear or repeating you,


    X x

  3. Ooh the two best fantasy films of the 80s. I was terrified of the muppets as a kid.

    Arianne from A + B in the Sea

  4. This all went over my head a little bit but I do love the idea of science and art coming together like this. And also the idea of nature being chaotic - why DO we try to categorise averything and put it into boxes? We should go with the flow more, er, man! :D x

  5. This seems amazing, I never liked science at school but this sort of thing actually makes it interesting ! Although you had me at Labyrinth and Princess Bride, two of my most favourite childhood films. xx

  6. I love FACT. When I was in second year at uni we had a set of lectures there and I fell in love with the place.
    A fab Liverpool resource.

  7. this place looks incredible! i also hated science at school but that stuff looks fascinating xx

  8. I'm amazed by how clever some people are. This sounds like a fabulous venue xx

  9. Sounds like a great exhibition Alex, it’s always interesting to learn about new things. And nothing quite beats seeing an old favourite at the cinema x

  10. Double bill of The Princess Bride and Labyrinth?! I'm DAZZLED!! Love' em!

  11. Is it terrible to admit I haven't seen either of those films?

    Nat x

  12. Absolutely fascinating! I did a volcano experiment with my year 5s this year- bicarbonate of soda plus vinegar! They were soooooo excited!!!!!
    BTW, you are the second person to mention this mentos coke experiment in the last week-I've never heard of it- what happens? Can I try it without blowing my head off?

  13. That looks so fantastic! I wish we had such cool places over here, but all I ever see are cows and pubs...

  14. This looks like a brilliant place. The Box sounds fab. xx

  15. Wow it sounds awesome! The photos are so intriguing - must be such a fun place to visit x

  16. That is magificent! And completely my geological cup of tea. I need to get up to Liverpool (especially if there is a viewing of Labyrinth involved *wander off signing dance magic dance*

  17. Wow! That looks great. Apparently I'm coming to Liverpool to watch a match next season! I've never been to a football match in my life xx


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