"Albireo" 2010
On display at Schuylkill Environmental Center, Philadelphia PA
 
Two pieces @ 3' x 4.5' x 12', TIG-welded stainless steel and aluminum, acrylic, silicone tubing, electronics.
 

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ALBIREO is a pair of robotic creatures that communicate with each other and interact in motion and sound. They draw energy from sunlight, powering an Arduino microprocessor, several motors, a speaker and a wireless communication system.  When the sun rises, they wake up and aim their panels toward the sky to charge themselves, repeating this when needed. 

Through the course of the day, they choose their actions, and whether to invite the other to join in.  Sometimes they agree to do the same thing, like make sounds back and forth, and sometimes they choose to simply ignore each other.  As the sun gets low in the sky. they run out of energy for motion and put themselves to sleep for the night.. 

 
 

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The software that is written for the ALBIREO pieces, along with their physical design, plus the imagination of the observer, gives them their personality.  While they have the approximate technical complexity of an amoeba, the artistic process gives them more than just their technology to work with.  Having been created by a human, all of the particular aspects of their simplicity are given the personal energy and decision-making of the artist, and that lives within them in a way with which the observer can, at some level, be engaged. 
 
 

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ALBIREO depicts an abstraction of a life form that is familiar while at the same time new.  What is it that makes something seem to live?  How much of a thought process does it need to have, how much awareness of its surroundings?  These creatures are aware only of each other, and do not care or know about humans or other animals that might be around them.  They mostly just need the sun to rise in order to live and be happy. 
     

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Albireo is one of the stars of the constellation Cygnus. It is, in fact, a double star - two stars close enough to each other to appear to the naked eye as one.  Cygnus is in the Milky Way, which was believed by ancient Mayans, Aztecs and numerous Native American tribes to be the gateway to the heavens. Early Egyptions thought it to be a river of souls.

In many of these and other ancient cultures around the world, the bird is the earliest symbol of the human spirit or soul.  Often a spirit in the form of a bird would guide souls into the heavens.    The constellation Cygnus is often a bird.  In Greek mythology, for instance, Cygnus is a swan, and Albireo is the “beak star” of the swan. 

   

My  grandmother used to tell of asking what I was doing when she found me, around 5 years old, collecting sticks and feathers in her yard. I replied

“Someday I’m gonna build me a bird!”

This installation of ALBIREO is dedicated to her memory and spirit.