Multimedia Artist Creates Delightful “Singing” Birds From Analog Circuits

Circuit Bird by Kelly Heaton

Kelly Heaton, detail of a Printed Circuit Bird from “Circuit Garden” (2022) curated by Common Ground Arts and commissioned by Arts Brookfield for Manhattan West and Brooklyn Commons. (Photo: Arts Brookfield and Jason Wyche)

Multimedia artist Kelly Heaton practices what she calls “creative electrical engineering” to make life-like circuits. Passionate about art and science since childhood, Heaton uses analog electronic hardware to produce printed bird circuits. These technological sculptures actually “chirp” and “sing” just like our avian friends, but with sounds entirely produced in an analog fashion. Akin to a vintage synthesizer, these dynamic sculptures show the life-like quality of technology.

“When I say that my bird circuits ‘sing,' I mean that they generate audible waveforms like a musical instrument playing itself,” Heaton explains to My Modern Met. “There is no software or audio playback involved, only the natural behavior of electronic hardware vibrating in ways that sound remarkably like a feathered friend.”

Heaton is even able to alter the birdsong by adjusting knobs to change the resistance of a circuit. This action is akin to a real bird firing neurons in its brain in reaction to different situations. As the birds sing, circuits across their body light up, giving a visual to this auditory delight.

By connecting a living creature that is so familiar to a technology that is, for many, difficult to comprehend, Heaton makes circuitry accessible. Suddenly, the hardware is no longer opaque. These sculptures help build a bridge that connects something familiar with raw electronic devices. “A singing circuit demonstrates fundamental principles of machine intelligence and brings us into a closer relationship therewith,” acknowledges Heaton.

Currently, Heaton's circuit birds are on view as part of Circuit Garden at New York City's Manhattan West (450 West 33rd Street). The piece, which is visible through June 3, 2022, features many of Heaton's circuit birds, as well as chirping crickets, embedded into a human-scale artificial lawn.

Multimedia artist Kelly Heaton makes bird sculptures from electronic circuits.

Circuit Bird by Kelly Heaton

Kelly Heaton, detail of a Printed Circuit Bird from “Circuit Garden” (2022) curated by Common Ground Arts and commissioned by Arts Brookfield for Manhattan West and Brooklyn Commons. (Photo: Arts Brookfield and Jason Wyche)

In doing so, she's able to make these birds “sing.”

Her use of life-like circuits builds a bridge between the natural world and technology.

Circuit Bird by Kelly Heaton

Kelly Heaton, detail of a Printed Circuit Bird from “Circuit Garden” (2022) curated by Common Ground Arts and commissioned by Arts Brookfield for Manhattan West and Brooklyn Commons. (Photo: Arts Brookfield and Jason Wyche)

Circuit Bird by Kelly Heaton

Kelly Heaton, detail of a Printed Circuit Bird from “Circuit Garden” (2022) curated by Common Ground Arts and commissioned by Arts Brookfield for Manhattan West and Brooklyn Commons. (Photo: Arts Brookfield and Jason Wyche)

Many of her birds are on display in the lobby of 5 Manhattan West as part of her Circuit Garden.

Kelly Heaton: Website | Facebook | Instagram 

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Kelly Heaton.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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