Stephen Cornford
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To Photograph A Rock (2020)
 

This video, commissioned by the School of Earth Sciences at Bristol University, is constructed around a short text of theoretical reflections on the volcanological experiments that I have observed while artist in residence with the Disequilibrium project. Taking the imaging and visual analysis technologies used by the scientists as its basis, the video draws comparisons between the earth processes simulated in the labs and the technical processes involved in the manufacture of a digital camera: comparing the furnaces used to study magma with those used to bake semiconductors.

The work considers the continuous presence of silica and silicon throughout the scientists’ experiments, both as earth media - the silicates pyroxene and plagioclase in magma - and as technical media - the camera sensors and computer chips used to image these samples and analyse the results. Silicon is then both the subject of the experiment and the instrument used to study it, the substance through which both magma and data flow. Minerals processed into machines photograph molten minerals and compute their behaviour in changing states of temperature and pressure, writing out abstractions of their own minerality.