Circuit-bent Jigsaw

The majority of digital art arguably has aesthetic concerns as its focus. Even glitch art, which focuses on digitally corrupting image generation, usually has aesthetics at its heart in that the artist will usually keep altering the system until a satisfactory or appealing image is found; they choose which images to display and which to discard. In this way, a great deal of glitch art can be seen as an aesthetic representation of a “glitched” process, but cannot be said to be truly a glitch in conceptual terms. Glitches are by their very nature unpredictable, and unachievable with forethought (the attempt to stage a glitch means it is no longer truly a glitch).

This work investigates the related field of circuit-bending: the practice of dismantling electronic equipment (more often than not, old electronic toys) and corrupting their circuitry in order to achieve unpredictable and randomised results (audio and/or visual). Circuit-bent jigsaw takes this culture of experimental modification out of its digital context and re-applies it to a traditional medium.

An archetypal traditional toy, the jigsaw, was chosen as the medium through which to explore this process. Its pieces can be seen as representing pixels in a regular, grid-based image, which

Geraint Edwards, Circuit-bent Jigsaw #3, Jigsaws / performance / video, 2015

can be manipulated or randomised in an echo of the glitching process. In keeping with the conceptual framework of boardgames and traditional toys, the randomisation is provided by a six-sided die.

This non-digital reflection of the circuit-bending process involved six different 1000-piece jigsaws, all cut to the same pattern, so that one piece may be taken from one jigsaw and placed into another in its corresponding position. A new, unique jigsaw was generated by throwing the die, which selects one of the six jigsaws, and by adding the corresponding piece/pixel to the new jigsaw. This process continued until six unique jigsaws had been created. To ensure authenticity, these were all commercially-available jigsaws, mirroring the circuit-bending practice of using conventional, everyday electronic toys.

Effectively, this is circuit-bending or corrupting the system of the regular, understood way of doing a jigsaw, randomising each pixel (or jigsaw piece) within the parameters of the possible pieces (or palette colours) available. I play the part of the corrupted circuit, obeying the whims of the rerouted, randomised system, i.e. the die.

The finished images draw out the underlying scene statistics of the scenes commonly framed by pictures. “Scenes”, whilst they may contain different subject matter, generally adhere to a set of principles of composition. These principles can be seen in the Circuit-bent jigsaws, with lighter shades appearing at the top of the images, and the viewer’s eye drawn in to the central, distant point. Though the individual units of the scene have been stripped of their semantic or contextual attributes, they still adhere to a set of predetermined rules, which are retained in the randomised images.

[1] Geraint Edwards, Circuit-bent Jigsaw #1, Jigsaws / performance / video, 2015
[2] Geraint Edwards, Circuit-bent Jigsaw (Detail), Jigsaws / performance / video, 2015
[3] Geraint Edwards, Circuit-bent Jigsaw #2 (Detail), Jigsaws / performance / video, 2015
[4] Geraint Edwards, Circuit-bent Jigsaw Performance, Jigsaws / performance / video, 2015
[5] Geraint Edwards, Circuit-bent Jigsaw Installation View, Bank Street Arts Sheffield, 2015