down time by kelly heaton

Earlier this week, I had arthroscopic surgery on my left hip to repair an old injury that was becoming arthritic. This post is an evolving repository of images that I’m creating during my downtime.

Reconstructing tree (and me) by kelly heaton

Studio work in-progress, September 2018.

I’m getting ready to have arthroscopic surgery on my left hip to repair an old injury that is becoming arthritic. Meanwhile, looking at the state of my studio, it appears that I have imposed my own condition on this tree branch —a work in-progress for my latest Electrolier. Some people have commented that my approach is convoluted and I will not argue with that. However, I often find myself undertaking arduous and complex works because a big challenge yields so many little surprises, adaptations, and personal touches that don’t happen when you follow a direct path from concept to object. I am not a “special effects” artist. My art is more about the process of becoming —the struggle to achieve a difficult but worthy goal— than it is about the end result. Of course, I want the end result to be beautiful, but I strive for a beauty that is multi-layered, honest, generous, and full of stories.

Depending upon my recovery process, it may be a few weeks before I can continue with making sculpture. Meanwhile my studio is a good portrayal of my current state of being: a lot happening all at once, incomplete, in need of a good clean-up, and full of promise.

Owl surgery by kelly heaton

 Paper owl looking onto its electronic eye circuit, 2018

Paper owl looking onto its electronic eye circuit, 2018

Transitions. Sometimes it feels like the holes that we have are equally -if not more- beautiful than what promises to fill them. Here, a paper owl contemplates the circuit that I designed to fit into its eyes. The addition of electronics to a static object adds more than functionality and aesthetics - it changes the identity of the object. Non-electronic things live in a physical world with thousands of years of creative history, while electronic things are very new. What was once an owl then become a robot - perhaps more robot than owl in our estimation. Does the owl stand to lose more than it gains?

Machine-centric intelligence by kelly heaton

We struggle to relate to machines on their own terms, despite the fact that we created them. I suppose there are people with fluency in some machines, but the body of knowledge in computer science alone vastly exceeds anyone's capacity to understand. Moreover, there are subtle and often surprising effects that arise from even basic electronic components - instruments for manipulating electricity in ways that have yet to be discovered. 

However, if you add human features like the eyes in this video, suddenly we connect. But with what do we relate, really, besides our own reflection? We must push ourselves beyond human-centricity to see things for what they really are.

Shift registers by kelly heaton

I am in the process of building a control system for the insects in my latest Electrolier. As a starting point, I will use shift registers with (or possibly without) linear feedback. Adding linear feedback involves "tapping" two or more of the logical outputs, evaluating their state with boolean logic (usually an XOR gate), and feeding the result back into the start of the shifting sequence. In my video, you can see two 8-bit shift registers in the center (TI part number CD54/74AC164E). I put LEDs on the logic outputs Q0-Q7 to visualize what is happening. As you can see, the LEDs of the two shift registers are not synchronized, a property of an undefined starting state that I will exploit to get randomness for "free" -- at least that's what I'm thinking.

More about my breadboard: on the right is a 555 timer in astable mode which provides a clock pulse of about 1x per second. On the left is a 5 volt regulator - this part is irrelevant if you have the correct DC supply voltage, but mine is 12 VDC.

Good general overview to answer the question “what is a linear feedback shift register” (LFSR):

On choosing taps for a linear feedback shift register:

Mini project on how to implement a LFSR:

Another helpful paper on using an 8-bit LFSR (i.e. Texas Instruments chip CD54/74AC164):

One final note: because shift registers are comprised of flip flops, an option to add true randomness to this otherwise pseudorandom bit generator is to exploit the metastability characteristics of a flip-flop as described here by @crj11:

Papercraft tree WIP by kelly heaton

I continue to work on my latest Electrolier sculpture. For this part --an arboreal vignette (and habitat for electric creatures of the Virginian night)-- I designed a sculptural tree in Blender that I unwrapped, print, cut, and folded to make branches out of relatively thin paper. I used this first collection of paper branches to build an underlying structure for my sculpture, like a naked tree. I stabilized it with wood glue and expandable foam. At the moment I am applying a bark layer which I laser cut out of cardboard using the same sequence of branch patterns. Because I am layering identical patterns, and because the real world is imperfect, the bark does not wrap around the circumference of the underlying tree exactly. I fill occasional gaps in the bark by hand, which gives an organic feeling to the machine aesthetic.

Whoever believes that technology makes production easier or faster has not witnessed my painstaking practice to balance artist and computer, nature and machine. For more information on process, please refer to my earlier blog entry:

Below are several images of my process thus far. Note that this is the first of two interlocking branches.