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Circuit Board Skeletons

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Peter McFarlane

Peter McFarlane

I was really struck by Canadian artist Peter McFarlane‘s circuit board skeletons, and his views on transforming electronic waste. The series includes skeletons, sculptures, and paintings.

From his site:

My circuit board paintings arose from working as a computer sales consultant back in the early 1990’s. I was appalled at the computer’s speed of redundancy and was determined to extend its life. My son was born around that time and after I would come home from work and put him to bed, I would head to the studio and start to work. I painted the night scape because that was the landscape I saw. Working late in my studio I could always place myself as one of the “ignited” lights in the painting. After much trial and error, I discovered that by painting the circuit board, and re-igniting the circuits, I could create a landscape that appealed to the subjective and objective view. Over time, I created traffic and lightning and other features that played with the metaphors associated with circuit boards and power. The work was more in the realm of the aesthetic, but I found the idea of making landscape beauty out of landfill components appealing. The circuit board, to me, is the perfect contemporary “canvas” or “platform”. It is such an integral part of the global village and contained in so many of our consumer goods that we rely upon to stay “connected” or “consumed”.

The used object is just the foothold for my interrogation of understanding. It is not so much about re-cycling as it is about a poetic re-contextualizing of object and idea. It is similar geography and architecture to urban topography as well as the connection to the circuitry of the mind enhance its intrinsic metaphoric value.

The circuit board sculptures were a logical outgrowth of the more two-dimensional landscapes, using nature as a model and creating delicate objects out of these obsolete, but formerly cutting-edge technologies.

Here are some more examples from the series. Check out the gallery on his site for more.

[via Colossal]

10 thoughts on “Circuit Board Skeletons

  1. SciPunk says:

    The work is absolutely beautiful. It definitely speaks to me.

    What I don’t understand (and maybe I’m missing something) is how using scrap materials as a medium for art is somehow helpful to the environment. Eventually every atom of these works will end up in the same place as the materials would have done anyway, right?

    1. ameyring says:

      There are two ways to think of using scrap: 1) you’re using a readily-available waste material instead of virgin material that has to be manufactured fresh (if the artist were to seek out new boards, it means those boards can’t be used in new computers and hence the manufacture of more boards); 2) you’re delaying the entry of the scrap material into the waste stream, though hopefully it’ll end up being recycling completely some day.

  2. Dar utilidade a placas de circuitos « Paranóias says:

    […] Blog Makezine […]

  3. larryben says:

    Every body buys art. So if they buy art that is recycled they are saving natural resources that would have been used to create the art they would have bought instead.

  4. Circuit Board Skeletons | The Magic Echo Chamber says:

    […] more at This entry was posted in Uncategorized by David Forbes. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  5. Noah Benzing says:

    Now THAT’S what I call GOLD recovery from electronic waste! :))
    Continue in this direction!

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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