Frank Spigner

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Electronics

I see much of the electronic arts including databending, circuit building, and hardware hacking as a socially mediated and subversive art form which supports the ethic of self-sufficiency and the empowering of the individual while reflecting the anti-consumerist and anti-corporate ideologies of the DIY and punk movements as well as the information ethics of hacktivism. Another social issue which I confront through teaching circuit building workshops is the growing electronics illiteracy which has been prevalent since the beginning of the digital revolution. From the 40′s until the 70′s, DIY and amateur electronics was very popular. There were publications such as Popular Science and Scientific Monthly regularly writing articles on the subject, ham radio enthusiasts were building homemade radios, the Heath Company produced a wide range of kits for electronics hobbyists which promoted education through hands-on circuit building. It was an era when the average person could open an electronic device for repair and have an idea of what each component did. Ever since analog circuitry started to be replaced by digital technologies, when handmade transistorized circuits started to be replaced by mass manufactured PCBs covered with programmed IC chips and microelectronics, the public became less informed and less educated in regards to electronics. These days, the ability to read schematics and repair and design circuits are skills that few people have. I believe that through teaching practical hands-on electronics, as well as the development of open-source makerspaces, this trend can be reversed and can encourage education and self-sufficiency among the public.

My interest in electronics and electronic media stems from a personal history immersed in computers and technology. Everyone in my immediate family worked with computers professionally. As a child, I would frequently watch my father, who worked as a computer consultant, building computers, or my mother, a computer and technology teacher for the New York City Department of Education, creating web pages. When I was very young, these experiences of seeing the insides of computers as they were being built and the visual language and aesthetics of computers, circuits, and interfaces of the computer and of the early Windows and DOS operating systems would leave a major impact on me.

Later, as my artistic and musical identity developed, my technology-driven side was revitalized as I searched for new electronic methods of realizing the sounds and visions of my imagination. I would dissect old electronics and delve into the process of modifying circuits, hardware hacking, and the creative ‘misuse’ of IC chips and electronic components. Much of my time off from school during breaks was spent in my room with breadboards and IC data sheets covering the table and floor as I would prototype and design circuitry endlessly. I would study schematics and read articles and books about circuit building and DIY electronics such as the writing by Forrest Mims, Craig Anderton, Reed Ghazala, and especially the book “Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking” by Nicolas Collins which would become a staple of my early electronics explorations. Besides creating original circuits, I practiced by making ‘clones’ of existing circuits as well as working from preexisting formats and archetypes, for instance filter topologies, types of oscillators, and transistor configurations.

 

 

works in progress

electronic instruments & processors

electronic tools & inventions

performance setups

circuit bending

sketches


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