York Art Gallery

28 September 2018 – 25 November 2018

Strata – Rock – Dust – Stars, which showcases ground-breaking moving image, new media and interactive artwork, is inspired by William Smith’s geological map of 1815, which was key in the development of Geology as a science and transformed the way in which we understand the world.

Curated by Mike Stubbs (Director of FACT, Liverpool) in partnership with York Museums Trust and York Mediale, the exhibition features works by the following artists:

  • Isaac Julien
  • Agnes Meyer-Brandis
  • Semiconductor
  • Phil Coy
  • Liz Orton
  • David Jacques
  • Ryoichi Kurokawa

It examines not only geological strata, but also explores a timely and contemporary poetic layering of human curiosity, exploration and reflection on the universe.

The exhibition will be the most ambitious and large scale media art exhibition York has ever hosted. It is part of York’s first Mediale, a citywide digital arts festival for the UK’s only UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts.

Please note: this exhibition does contain flashing lights. For more information on accessibility, please visit our access page.

List of Works

Agnes Meyer-Brandis (b.1973, DE. Lives and works in Berlin) Title TBD, 2018

Agnes Meyer-Brandis’ work explores the zone between fact and fiction with poetic-scientific investigations weaving imagination, storytelling and myth, past, present and future.

Previous projects include Moon Goose where Meyer-Brandis bred eleven ‘moon geese’ who, as predicted by Francis Godwin in the earliest science fiction novel The Man in the Moone, migrated to the Moon towing a chariot, and Studies in Applied Falling / Hammer which takes as its point of departure the exploration of gravity in the tradition of Galileo’s famous theory of free fall. For Strata-Rock-Dust-Stars, Agnes Meyer-Brandis will be creating a new installation.


Agnes Meyer-Brandis, born 1973 in Aachen, Germany, studied mineralogy for a year, then transferred to the Art Academy in Maastricht, the Düsseldorf Art Academy and the Cologne Media Art Academy. She comes from a background of both sculpture and new media art. Her work, exhibited worldwide and award winning, is exploring the zone between fact and fiction.


Phil Coy (b. 1971, UK. Lives and works in London) Substance, 2017

Substance explores the materials and processes that enable us to image the earth’s surface, and reveals the scars that the extraction of these materials have left. It focuses on the mining and refining of copper; the process of photolithography used in the production of silicon chips; and the CCD (charge-coupled device) sensors found in most digital and satellite cameras.

It takes the form of a dymaxion world projection, a dymaxion map being a 2D representation of the world with its form heavily interrupted in order to preserve shapes and sizes, onto photo-etched copper plates. Alongside, a Virtual Reality (VR) environment invites visitors on a shifting journey between these hollowed-out landscapes and the ‘supercomputers’ at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. In doing so, the work offers the viewer an experience where both the medium and subject of observation merge.


Phil Coy’s work considers the perceptual shift from analogue to digital media, particularly in the context of landscape representation. Forthcoming and recent exhibitions include: South London Gallery (2018); Royal Observatory Greenwich (2018); Annely Juda Fine Art (2018); FACT (2017); Ferens Art Gallery and Hull Maritime Museum (2016); and Wilkinson Gallery (2016). His recent light poem, Your right to continued existence (2016) is permanently installed on the Caledonian Road in London.

David Jacques (b.1964, UK. Lives and works in Liverpool) Oil is the Devil’s Excrement, 2017

David Jacques’ recent body of work, Oil is the Devil’s Excrement, is a mythopoeic take on the 20th Century rise of an Oil Industry inextricably tethered to Capitalism. The title derives from a speech given in 1975 by Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo, the then Venezuelan Minister for Energy and originator of OPEC who prophesied: “Ten years from now, twenty years from now, you will see; oil will bring us ruin. Oil is the Devil’s excrement”.

Central to the project is a short animation involving an ailing, delirious Alfonzo being visited at his deathbed by ‘Oil’ presenting as an abstract, sentient entity. The narration is provided by a daemonic chorus who capriciously flit through the proceedings, proclaiming through a mash-up of karaoke and heroic pentameter. They weave through a variety of thematic references taking in Jungian readings on Medieval Alchemy, Weird Fiction and the global effect of Biopolitics.


David Jacques is a multimedia artist based in Liverpool, UK. working primarily with painting, video and text. His productions are realised as cycles, intensively developed over long periods resulting in complex narrative arrangements and woven through a variety of disciplines.

His works engage with themes of Historiography, Mythopoesis and the Socio-Political and are often concerned with temporal slippage, and factual / fictive play, utilising a picaresque, humorous delivery.


Isaac Julien (B.1960, UK. Lives and works in London) Stones Against Diamonds, 2015

Stones Against Diamonds is a breathtaking ten screen installation drawing inspiration from a letter written by Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi. The artwork examines themes within Bo Bardi’s letter, where she praises the beauty of semi-precious gems over preferred precious stones, such as diamonds.

Shot in remote Vatnajökull region in Austurland (South East Iceland), using the glistening ice caves as a set for the film, Julien portrays some of the most beautiful objects as the least precious in a conventional sense. The shoot took place over five days with the crew enduring sub-zero temperatures deep in the heart of spectacular glacial caves, formed in ice over thousands of years and accessible for only a few days a year due to the harsh climate.


Internationally acclaimed filmmaker and installation artist Isaac Julien CBE RA, makes multi-screen film installations and photographs that incorporate different artistic disciplines to create a poetic and unique visual language. Born in 1960 in London, he is one of the most prominent figures at the intersection of media art and cinema today and his installation work is included in some of the highest profile institutions around the globe.

Julien’s solo exhibitions and presentations include; Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture, San Francisco (2017); Victoria Miro Gallery, London (2017); Platform-L Contemporary Art Centre, Seoul (2017); The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (2017); Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2016); MAC Niterói, Rio de Janeiro (2016); Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), Mexico City (2016).


Ryoichi Kurokawa (b.1978, JP. Lives and works in Berlin) unfold.alt, 2016

unfold.alt is a single screen version of unfold, originally developed as an immersive and sensory installation. Inspired by the latest discoveries in the field of astrophysics, unfold translates the formation and evolution of stars into sounds, images and vibrations.

It contains ten phases of stellar formation, presented in reverse chronological order: Neutron star; Gravitational collapse; Supernova; Nuclear fusion; Protostar formation; Pre-stellar core; Filament formation; Massive star impact; Molecular cloud and Interstellar medium.

Kurokawa’s works are compositions – symphonies of sounds in combination with video material and computer generated aesthetics – which change how the spectator views the familiar.

unfold was co-commissioned between FACT, Stereolux and University of Salford Art Collection, with the support of CEA Irfu, Paris-Saclay, Arcadi and DICRéAM. With support from the Goethe-Institut London.


Japanese artist Ryoichi Kurokawa uses various media – video, installation, recording and live performances – in order to produce stunning audio-visual sound pieces which he has been pioneering and presenting internationally since 1999. He describes his works as time-based sculptures and considers sound and image as a single unit. Kurokawa has exhibited and performed at various international art institutions and festivals including at Tate Modern, London; the 54th Venice Biennale, Arsenale Novissimo, Venice; transmediale, Berlin; Center for Fine Arts, Brussels; Espace Louis Vuitton, Paris; eARTS, Shanghai and MACBA, Barcelona.


Liz Orton (b.1967, UK. Lives and works in London) The Longest and Darkest of Recollections, 2016

The series The Longest and Darkest of Recollections considers notions of time, memory and the construction of knowledge. Alongside photographs playfully exploring the methods used by geologists searching for evidence in the ‘deep time’ of rock formations, is a text directed to the artist’s ageing father, in the light of his fading memory.

The work is informed by Orton’s visual research into the practices and gestures of touch and measurement used by geologists. It fuses scientific and sensual knowledge with other more personal systems of understanding, while subtly questioning the role of photography as fixed evidence. It speaks of an ongoing curiosity about geological history, and obsessions with systematising and categorising time and the earth.


Liz Orton is a visual artist whose practice is based on entanglements of landscape, technology and the body. She engages widely with archives, both real and imagined, to explore the tensions between personal and systematic forms of knowledge. Liz teaches BA Photography at the London College of Communication and regularly provides workshops and training in collaborative photographic practices.

She currently holds a Wellcome Trust arts grant for her long-term project about medical image technologies and archives, Digital Insides. Her first book, A Handful of Soil for the Whole Horizon, was shortlisted for the MACK First Book Award, the Kassel Dummy Award and the Unseen Photobook Award.

Liz has exhibited widely and recent group shows include The Mile End Arts Pavillion, FACT, Liverpool and Format Photography Festival.


Semiconductor (Ruth Jarman (b. 1973) and Joe Gerhardt (b. 1972) Live and work in London) Worlds in the Making, 2011

Worlds in the Making explores how we observe, experience and create an understanding of the physical origins of the world around us. By appropriating the tools and processes of volcanology to re-interpret the primordial landscapes of our volcanic planet, Semiconductor create a world slightly removed from the one we think we know, disrupting our everyday assumptions of reality and questioning how science affects our experience of the natural world.

The use of audio within the work delves into our relationship with the physical, scientific and ephemeral nature of sound. Seismic data collected from beneath volcanoes and translated into audio evokes images of rocks crunching and grinding below the Earth and is used as a sculptural tool to generate elaborate CG animations of matter forming as mineral crystals.

A scientist’s dialogue appears to guide us through extraordinary landscapes whilst Oren Ambarchi’s overwhelming composition brings an emotional connection to place. The viewer is transported through dystopian landscapes, strangely exquisite animations, fantastical vistas, and natural phenomena to a world between science fiction and science fact.


Semiconductor have been working together for twenty years producing moving image works that explore the material nature of our world and how we experience it through the lens of science and technology. Exhibitions include the monographs Let There Be Light, HeK, Basel; Worlds in the Making, FACT, Liverpool and the group show Earth; Art of a Changing World, Royal Academy of Arts, London.


York Mediale 2018

Download the York Mediale programme guide to see what’s on across York.