Thursday, August 2, 2007
A short note for A. on the topic of circuit bending
Egad! You probably know more about this than I do. I thought people just hack open electronic devices, old synthesizers, toys, things that produce sound and tweak the circuits. I would think you need a minimal knowledge of electronics and soldering. It's low fi engineering, it's hacking, it's rigging. It seems comparable to game hacking to me. You have to be able to deal with the code some but you don't have to be an expert. It's more about breaking things in an interesting way. It's cut and past in a way. It's seems like it comes out of a desire to personalize things. This makes me think of torn jeans in punk or the hippie adornment of jeans or other clothing. But circuit bending seems to overlap with game hacking and maybe that kooky midi instrument stuff (which is all about customizing (personalizing) stuff too but the interface rather, triggers, inputs and outputs). Definitely a nerd scene. All this stuff, I feel, owes something to Brian Eno who owes something to John Cage. It may be the same aesthetic underpinning as prepared instrument music (Keith Rowe, guitar playing for example). And on the West Coast they have the more macho machine sculpture thing that's been kicking since at least SRL. But it is still kind of geeky because you have to know how to do stuff which means you are figuring stuff out and not hanging out. I guess the fact machine sculpture is so much bigger on the West Coast (than on the East Coast) makes total sense. Look at, I suppose, California's history of car culture. Perhaps this is the geographical point where all this stuff overlaps with surfer and skater culture. This is the sort of stuff they are starting to teach in art school (circuit bending, machine sculpture) — since it is more about creative uses of the technology than anything else. I had a class as an undergrad called Machine Sculpture. This stuff is about seeing what you can do with the little you know or can figure out (and not re-inventing the wheel). And that, in a nutshell, is the punk DIY attitude, circa 1977 but applied to other stuff (than bands, fanzines and fashion).