Skip links

Designed Objects | BASA Awards 2019 Trophies

Artist’s Statement by Ralph Borland for BASA Awards 2019

Working with the theme ‘ALGO-RHYTHMS’, which refers both to algorithms in mathematics and computer code, and to rhythm in music, Ralph Borland has been commissioned to design and produce the winners’ trophies for this year. Borland is a South African artist, curator and interdisciplinary knowledge worker, who teases out issues of power, activism, social engagement via designed objects, the aesthetics of make-do and ad hoc design, and the pleasures of pop culture, sound and music, multi-media and sculpture, and collaborative artistic practice (more info at

For me, the first thing algorithms bring to mind is pattern; especially those complex patterns found in nature, which are produced by algorithmic processes, from the distribution of seeds on a sunflower, or the shape of a sea shell, or the fur of an animal. These are the result of ‘complexity’: natural processes acting in similar ways to computer code. 
     You also find pattern in craft such as weaving or beading, produced through an algorithmic process – a formula that creates a pattern (the late ethno-mathematician Paulo Gerdes in Mozambique wrote about these). Wire artists use maths approaches, such as topology in making a single piece of wire describe a three-dimensional shape. We use ‘code’ in our projects at African Robots, in the computer code with which we program microchips to create movement, light and sound in our artwork. 

“We must not be afraid to push boundaries; instead, we should leverage our science and our technology, together with our creativity and our curiosity, to solve the world’s problems.”

Jason Silva

     Music and sound is frequently used in our projects: our large-scale sculpture Dubship I – Black Starliner, exhibited at the Zeitz MOCAA this year, is an electro-mechanical music-making machine. Our special project, supported by BASA in South Korea for the International Symposium of Electronic Arts 2019, also has a sound element: microchip-controlled strikers produce sound from found objects. For the 2019 BASA Awards’ trophies I have been commissioned to create, I also wanted to explore and experiment with shapes, patterns and functions, as expressions of an algorithmic process.
     For ‘African Robots’, we work with street wire artists in Southern Africa to produce new kinds of wire art that incorporate more high-tech processes, such as 3D printing and laser-cutting. In this way, we bring together informal sector artists with technology in a process of collaboration and skill-sharing. Taking an African vernacular form such as wire art, and expressing it in a contemporary way using technology (connected with 4IR) feels appropriate for our time, and the way in which technology has become not only a tool for the arts but also a medium of creative expression.

Read more about the BASA Awards in our other articles:
More African Robots videos
The adjudication panel for the 22nd annual BASA Awards
New members appointed to BASA Board
Theme for BASA Awards pushes boundaries
Who designed the BASA Awards trophies?
22nd Annual BASA Awards: winners announced
Q&A with Kojo Baffoe (Chair of the Awards Adjudication Panel)

Q&A with Kojo Baffoe (Chair of the Awards Adjudication Panel)

To keep up-to-date with the latest arts and culture news in South Africa, purchase the October 2019 issue of Creative Feel or subscribe to our monthly magazine from only R180.00 to R365.00 per year! SUBSCRIBE HERE!

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website.