RalphBorland.net
 

I am an artist, designer and researcher based in Cape Town, South Africa. I returned to South Africa in late 2011 after five years in Dublin, Ireland, where I completed a multi-disciplinary PhD in the School of Engineering at Trinity College, Dublin. I did my Masters in the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at New York University, and I studied Fine Art (majoring in Sculpture) at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town.

I recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town. My site Objectsindevelopment.net is a home for my PhD work and my continuing research. I am currently curating an exhibition about Cape Town's foreshore for the University of Cape Town, to be held at City Hall in April 2014.
 
This website has been a record of my work since about 2005. You can read a January 2006 biography about my production up until then, on the South African art website ArtThrob. Read more about my work below.

- February 2014


Recent projects

African Robots - A proposal for animating wire-work street art using cheap electronic components and cell phone parts. The first prototype is a starling, a common urban bird in Cape Town. Running on a Nokia phone battery, it incorporates a sound-synthesizer whose pitch depends on light exposure, glowing LED eyes, and head and wing movement via a cheap hacked motor and handmade gear. On exhibition at Design Indaba in Cape Town Feb 28 - 2 March 2014 at the CTICC, in ThingKing's Maker Library Network stand.

Postdoc at the ACC - In August 2012 I started an 18-month postdoctoral fellowship with the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town. The African Centre for Cities (ACC) ‘seeks to facilitate critical urban research and policy discourses for the promotion of vibrant, democratic and sustainable urban development in the global South from an African perspective’. I am helping to formulate the ACC’s position on design for social impact, especially in the context of Cape Town as World Design Capital 2014. One of my main tasks will be as lead researcher on the ACC’s major exhibition on Cape Town, to be held here in 2014.
IKM - Information Knowledge Management (IKM) Emergent was a research programme I became involved with while studying for my PhD at Trinity College Dublin. I was commissioned to design an installation to communicate their work through creative means, first for a development conference in Geneva in 2008. I subsequently developed further material for other exhibitions and communications of their work over the next few years.
OpenHere - In Dublin in 2012, I participated in and helped organise the conference 'OpenHere'. A transdisciplinary community of critical theorists, engineers, artists, designers and industry professionals spoke on debates surrounding the digital commons. Key points of discussion included the conflictive spaces of the digital commons, tactical media, net-art, digital policy, disruptive wireless practices, alternative spectrum ownership models, next-generation networks and the political economy of infrastructure.
Handy Ears - A headphone-like pair of realistic silicon rubber palms, cast from my hands, used as a tool for amplifying hearing: an extra pair of hands cupped behind the ears. Based on the experience of this familiar action's effect on one's engagement with the environment, this tool leaves the hands free, and invites associations between the whorls of the ear and the folds of fingers and palms, cupped hands and parabolic reflectors. Echoing headphones in form, the piece suggests a gentler enhancement of listener experience.
Surface Tension - I was the lead curator of an exhibition about 'the future of water', titled 'Surface Tension', which opened at Science Gallery in Dublin in November 2011. Following Science Gallery's commitment to an art-science approach, the exhibition combined contemporary artwork, design, and engineering and science projects. This is the exhibition website.
PhD - My PhD thesis, titled 'Radical Plumbers and PlayPumps - Objects in development' is complete. I started my PhD in October 2006, and submitted my thesis in October 2010. I passed my viva (or 'defence') in January 2011, and had my degree conferred as of March 2011. Thanks to the National Research Foundation of South Africa (NRF) and the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust for funding my research, and to my supervisor Linda Doyle for all her help.
PSi16 - I made a short video presentation titled 'The PlayPump: Mechanics of a Static Technology' as my contribution to a panel presentation at PSi16 Performing Publics in Toronto, 12 June 2010. The panel was titled 'Network Fetishisms: Beyoncé, Bicycle Couriers, Digital Divinity, and Development Design'. My presentation frames some of the work in my PhD thesis, focusing on my main case-study, the PlayPump.
Pattern - A project to map the appearance of a distinctive, cellular automata-like tiling pattern that occurs around the world. I am inviting people around the world to take photographs of the pattern wherever they see it, and to send the images to me for the construction of an artwork.
 
Past projects
Mesh - For my contribution to the South African group exhibition JAMcity in 2008, I produced two large-scale maps of Wifi networks in Cape Town and Johannesburg. All that is shown is the name of each wireless network, in small type, at the correct positions relative to each other and the geography of each city. The project also includes online resources.
Clinton St. - 'Clinton St' is a project to memorialise and direct public attention to an event that took place in my old neighbourhood in New York City in January 1998, when an apartment block at the corner of Clinton and Stanton Street was torn down by the City in front of its residents, taking their belongings and pets with it. In collaboration with musician Brendon Bussy, I broadcast a sound piece in the space on low-powered radio. This project was on the psychogeography festival Conflux in New York in September 2007.
Song of Solomon - An 8-channel audio installation created in September 2006 in collaboration with Julian Jonker. A computer program samples many versions of the song ‘Mbube’ (the source of the song ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’) to form a continually-changing audio collage that questions notions of intellectual property and the processes of cultural production.
Promised land - An exhibition of work that comments on contemporary South Africa through manipulated found-objects and fictional artefacts, first shown at blank projects in Cape Town in August 2006.
Sideshow - In March 2006 I was part of the Next Wave Festival in Melbourne, Australia, itself part of the Cultural Program of the Commonwealth Games 2006. I produced the work Sideshow, an exhibition and social space featuring political art and documents, and provocative technology from around the world.
Suited for Subversion - A protective suit which projects the wearer's heart-beat outside of their body. The suit draws on the protective-wear worn by activists at large-scale street demonstrations in Europe and the United States. The project was part of the show SAFE - Design takes on Risk, at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 2005.
Jetty Square - The public space I worked on with Earthworks Landscape Architects, for which I made a group of 'ghost shark' sculptures, reexploring where the sea once lay.
Front - A collaborative art project with my friends Margot Jacobs and Jessica Findley, as The Millefiore Effect. Front is a pair of sound-activated, inflatable ceremonial conflict-suits - on exhibition, we act as attendants and help visitors to posture and play in the suits. This project has been exhibited all over the world since we first developed it in 2000.
 
Other links:
Pieter Hugo - Pieter Hugo is a South African photographer who exhibits all over the world, and whose work can be found in Adbusters, Colors, Dazed & Confused, The New Yorker and the Sunday Times (London), amongst other publications. He won the South African Standard Bank Young Artist's Award in 2007.
Nathaniel Stern - Nathaniel is a fellow graduate of the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU, and an internationally exhibited (and awarded) artist, teacher and technologist, born in New York. After several years in Johannesburg, South Africa, and completing his PhD in the same program as myself at Trinity College, Dublin, Nathaniel is now Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and Design at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.
 
 
You can contact me at the address below. It isn't text or a link, please copy it by hand.