[ISEA2018] Workshop: Ralph Borland — African Robots

Workshop Statement

African Robots is a project to intervene in street ‘wire art’ production in Southern Africa, and in other locations with similar conditions. In South Africa and Zimbabwe, subsistence artists make largely ornamental goods from galvanized-steel fencing wire and other cheap materials, which they sell in the street. African Robots brings DIY electronics knowhow and cheap components to produce interactive and kinetic forms of work; African automatons such as birds, animals and insects.

The project functions as interventionist art and design fiction while establishing new social connections and the exchange of knowledge. It plays on the aesthetic similarity between old school computer wireframe 3D, and handmade three-dimensional objects made with wire – particularly in the offshoot project SPACECRAFT, which sees the design and production of wire spaceships, including a Zimbabwe Space Station drone! The project refers to the history of mechanical automatons in the advent of computing, and pays attention to the affective aspects of robots and the animation of material objects. For ISEA2018 in Durban, African Robots will undertake workshops with local wire artists and exhibit the work made.    africanrobots.net

  • Ralph Borland is an artist, curator and interdisciplinary knowledge worker based in Cape Town, South Africa. His current project African Robots is a collaboration with street wire artists in Southern Africa to introduce electronics and mechanics to their practice. He has a degree in Fine Art from the University of Cape Town, and a Masters in Interactive Telecommunications from New York University. His PhD, in the School of Engineering at Trinity College Dublin, is a critique of first-world design interventions in the developing world. His post-doctoral work has focused on Southern agency in the face of North-South knowledge inequalities.ralphborland.net

Supported by the National Arts Council of South Africa