Starling is the first prototype in my project African Robots, a project to create interactive electronic street art. ‘Street art’ in this instance means art sold by people on the street, in South Africa – usually forms of handicraft using inexpensive materials like fencing and electrical wire, beads and waste wood, plastic and metal. I’m particularly interested in wire work, where artists make three dimensional forms from wire. It’s a very economical use of material to define a form. The first prototype is a mechanical 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.
– Ralph Borland, 2014