Nintendo Gameboy in red on grey
Circuit Portraits is an ongoing art project that finally shines some light on that chunk of fibreglass and copper that lurks inside our most loved machines. Most of which are now lurking in the attic.
The Nintendo Gameboy was massive in the 90s, when I was a teenager. I always thought it was stupid, and dumb. I never had one. I was jealous.
This is a print of an early generation board revision (DMGCPU/LCD-06) from 1989. I bought a donor machine from ebay, broke it down, cleaned it, stripped the components, scanned it, and traced it, painstakingly laying out the lines, recreating the original.
There's four boards stuffed into this little device. The big one has the controls (buttons, D-pad) on it, and the connection to the LCD screen. The other main board has the CPU, memory and gamepak slot on it, as well as a bunch of switches and connectors. There's another two small boards, one for the power supply and one for the headphone socket - but I didn't print those.
I chose the best side of each of the main boards, and created three layers (background, copper and through-holes). Each layer of each print is individually hand-pulled on a silkscreen press using four different mixed colours of acrylic ink, onto 300gsm textured Somerset Satin paper, in the basement of my studio here in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The printed area is just less than A4 (10 x 7 inches, or 25.5 x 17cm), the paper itself is 15 x 29 1/2 inches, or 38 x 29 cm. The orientation is not fixed, this can be hung portrait or landscape.
This is an open edition, signed down one edge by the artist. That's me.
This project highlights the individuality that the people that made these artefacts bring to their work. The circuits I have chosen to feature are ones that have significance to me, either because our family had one, I had good memories of using them at friends houses, or because I coveted them badly!
They are curated from a golden era when consumer electronics still used relatively discrete components and the circuits themselves were open and simple. The days before computer-driven auto-routing could algorithmically calculate the most efficient routing scheme, with the fewest vias and the lowest impedance, in fact, the days when circuits were laid out on light-tables with gridding tape and set-squares. The days of Frogger and Pacman, of Horace Goes Ski-ing and Jetpac.
Engineers had their job to do, but for each design, had to choose only one of a thousand different ways to lay out their tracks. Each line was pored over for it's technical correctness, but ultimately there's a little bit of expression in each mark and swerve, in each routing decision.
None of it was ever intended to be looked at, but nevertheless, stripped of it's contextual markers - the case, buttons, lights, labels, connectors, components, and presented out-of-scale and on beautiful paper, under glass, the patterns reveal their purely aesthetic features and invite interpretation. A variation in density and detail play out a rhythm, and indicate a direction, movement.
Circuit boards, even now, are still produced industrially using a silkscreen technique, so the artists variation of this technique is very apt.
Prints are shipped rolled, face-out in a sturdy packing tube, with acid-free tissue paper and bubble wrap to protect it on it's journey. In the UK, it will be sent special delivery, a next-business-day, signed-for service. European shipping usually takes between two and four days, further afield can take up to ten business days.