May 4 - June 3, 2007
Robots. Those little metal men, clanking and rattling steel skeletons moving along haltingly, set into motion by electrodes and wires, pneumatic and hydraulic joints? Yes, and Amorphic Robot Works directed by the American artist Chico MacMurtie has built more than two-hundred of them in the past fifteen years. With these robots, MacMurtie has gained international recognition as one of the world’s greatest robot artists. However, recent investigations into the human condition and moving sculptures set him on a different track. Besides the usually heavy as well as fragile steel skeletons, MacMurtrie discovered and is actually currently exploring the possibilities of lightweight synthetics, plastics, and injection moulded joints. The result is a series of extremely lightweight robots: Inflatable Bodies. They do not only refer to human and animal bones, but to muscles as well. MacMurtrie’s first series of sixteen robots bears the name Inflatable Birds.
In the course of his career, Mexican-American artist MacMurtrie has gained much insight into the essence of movement, and movement disconnected from its biological source. “The simple actions that we perform almost automatically are charged with an altogether different significance if they’re executed by a creature that’s struggling to do with great difficulty what comes natural to us.” MacMurtrie believes that his machines, whose only goal is to grow, move, and interact, will help us reflect on the essence of living biological systems. “An important thing, which we in our robotic era, in the epoch of automation in which machines are taking over virtually all aspects of human life and work, seem to lose sight of.”
Uninflated, the Inflatable Birds fit in a suitcase, but unpacked and by means of little tubes connected to a compressor that provides them with the indispensable oxygen and gas, they come to life. Within a couple of minutes, the arms fill up with air, folding out like the wings of a bird. The electronic hinge in the centre makes them move in a slow and irresistibly beguiling way. Imagine seeing a flock of sixteen of them ‘flying’ through the space in single file. When after some time the wings deflate, they dip down, forming a giant white spider walking through the space.
“More than any other project I’ve done up to now, the Inflatable Bodies underscore my respect for nature,” says MacMurtrie. “Besides, they also allow the interaction between artwork and human being to become even more intimate. They are playful and soft, their lightweightedness makes them easily transportable, and as they are fully functional in a floating as well as a static position on the floor, they can create a direct relation with the audience.” MacMurtrie is therefore dreaming of developing his inflatable robots further into large-scale, interactive inflatable architecture.
Last year, the only place where all sixteen Inflatable Birds together were on view was Adelaide, Australia. Another recent project of Amorphic Robot Works is The Totemobile, a Citroën DS that in three stages unfurls into an anthropomorphic totem; a spectacular organic transformer rising to a full height of twenty metres. The robotic sculpture is built for the Citroën Champs-Élysées showroom. The exhibition in MU is not MacMurtrie’s first exhibition in Eindhoven; years ago he exhibited a couple of mechanical robots in the artists’ collective 2B. Amorphic Robot Works is currently housed in an old church in Red Hook, Brooklyn. For more information and backgrounds www.cronos.net/~bk/amorphic