Fiona Harvey's series ( e , 2009) pays close attention to the essential part played by electronics in our information society. The electronic circuit has become totally pervasive in our western world, with homes containing dozens of micro-electronic devices with functionality dedicated to a task ranging from maintenance of environment through entertainment and communications.
It is important to note that the electronic world has been compressed, while greatly enabled, by the forces of miniaturisation and economies of scale. The devices that Harvey focuses on have a limited working role to form part of experimental circuits. After any such successful proof of concept, the electronic circuit will be realised in a integrated form on a sheet of silicon, to be replicated in its tens of thousands on a microscopic scale. The impact of miniaturisation is to greatly reduce the power requirement of the circuit, to facilitate operation at higher speeds and to eliminate the manufacturing cost of making the connections betwen these components.
Harvey brings to our attention specimens of the fundamental building blocks but necessarily on individuals large enough to be seen with the naked eye. Even these are shot in extreme close-up, printed to a magnification of approximately10x in scale to expose their precise manufacture, their microscopic markings and a robust nature.
Despite this disparity in dimension, the components that Harvey images are exact functional replacements for their microscopic equivalents.
At the scale of enlargement of these images it is hard to avoid an anthropomorphic projection, egged on by the bipedal nature of some of these components and indeed Harvey refers to some of these as portraits. Working prints show that the more obvious of these characterisations have been discarded but even so we are left with an ambiguity in reading the dimension of these images. Once these components are exhibited at this scale we are faced with the question of their size relative to the viewer.
When more than one device appears in the shot these might be read as social groupings of indiduals in this peculiar ecological niche. They stand in conversational groups; may we take diversity of the group as an ideal for our society brought together by the communications networks built from these same components?
More extremely, when a small integrated circuit having eight "legs" joins the cluster it becomes likened to a pet, a companion for its bipedal owners. The irony in this projection should be obvious, that this more complex item becomes subservient, that we are at risk of diminishing that which we do not understand. Yet this seems to be a natural human response. Arthur C. Clarke remarked "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". This can
Many artists have been drawn to macro-photography by the beauty of the natural world. These tend more to the traditions of observed natural science finding an obvious delight in the detail of insect or vegetable life; closer to Harvey's practice Peter Frazer has explored in close-up the architectural and landscape qualities of the built electronic printed circuit board, the regularity of placement creating reflectively a view of the city or of industrial plant. Seth Hunter. The motif of an airborne view of electronic circuits has become a staple of futurist films. In some sense the regularity of placement and the rectilinear detail of the copper track of the printed circuit evoke notions of city
The components have been photographed standing upright in an anonymous white field, vaguely textured. In the diptych shots, a further reading emerges in which these clusters are no seen as longer individuals but perhaps buildings or signifying community.The informality of placement in Harvey's work removes these images from the modernist world and relocates them in a less certain era. Here two armies peer at one another over a snow filled landscape, the view uncertain through a mist of narrow focal depth. Here two city states vie for the honours of the tallest buildings, the novelty of their architecture. Are these islands which articulate a have/have not divide? An ignorance of technology, mutated into a fundamentalist distrust of science?
why do these evoke images of confrontation
The images induce [at least] two diverse readings. A potential for social groupings facilitated by electronic communications, or, inter-societal divisions fuelled by a superstitious response to very rapid technological change. The internet veers from these extremes of information sharing This work becomes a metaphor for the impact of technology, the way in which we adopt and respond to it and the processes where technological innovations create change outside of their initial target areas.