Saturday, December 31, 2011
When I first began creating sculptures with electronic circuitry in the mid-80’s I didn’t give much thought to the continued supply of the circuit boards I was using. While difficult and time-consuming, it was just a matter of talking factory owners out of their overruns, rejects or obsolete stock at dozens of factories within driving distance, and when they saw what I was doing with the circuit boards, many were surprisingly cooperative. Periodically I would make trips to choose and collect what I could use. I was only interested in the visual quality of circuitry boards before any components were attached. To me they were the beautiful skeletons of a new life form.
After a few years however, I realized that things were changing and that this window on the infancy of evolving technology would soon close, and become invisible to the naked eye. The miniaturizing of components was shrinking the circuitry patterns on the boards to which components would later be attached, and much of the circuitry pattern that was visible on the circuit boards that I liked was going to be absorbed by the invisible micro-chip components that were to be mounted on the boards. Also, more and more of the circuit boards were being manufactured with a masking that completely covered the circuitry patterns, leaving only the contact points exposed. The writing was on the wall. My electronic “skeletons” would soon become “fossils”. And so up until the mid-nineties I collected as many beautiful or useful boards as I could. Nearly all the circuit boards I use all come from the late 60’s through the mid-90’s. That’s why I refer to them as “vintage”.
Among the very first works I created from circuitry were several that were internally illuminated. The form of the sculpture was constructed from acrylic sheet, to which the pale greenish translucent circuitry panels were applied, and a lighting system was constructed for the inside of the sculpture. I really like the way the ghostly shadow of the circuitry pattern on the reverse side of the panel combined with the sharp silhouette of the circuitry on the front. The whole appearance of those sculptures was very impressive. The internal lighting required the installation of a cooling fan in the base of the sculptures to draw off the heat generated by the bulbs. There were no compact fluorescents or LEDs in the mid-80’s. If I did it today I would use a different source of illumination, but those sculptures were far too difficult and time-consuming, and for a variety of reasons those are the only ones of that kind I’ll probably ever make.