I was supposed to interview American artist Chico MacMurtrie about his upcoming show at the University of Manitoba ARTlab at 9:30 this morning, but it turned out he'd run into a technical glitch and been up almost all night.
Of course, technical glitches do pop up when you're working with pneumatics, electrical circuits and complicated computer programs.
Since 1991, MacMurtrie and his crew at the Brooklyn, New York-based
Amorphic Robotic Works have been designing highly complex, interactive
These constructions, which have been
exhibited in Madrid, Shanghai, Beijing and Paris, combine hardcore
engineering with wild conceptual vision to push the line between the
biological and the technological.
(Check out this 2007 work, Totemobile: MacMurtrie rigged a classic 1965 DS Citroen so that it
Totemobile unfolding and revealing its insides while lifting its head lights. (Chico MacMurtrie)
unfurls, reaches out and rises into the air, ultimately morphing into an extraordinary 18-metre high organic totem pole. In its eerie, elegant power, it puts Michael Bay's Transformers
I eventually caught up with MacMurtrie in the afternoon. For his project at the U of M ARTlab, which is being presented in conjunction with Videopool
, MacMurtrie has been working for 10 days with a team of almost 30 Winnipeg artists, architects, computer wonks and engineers.
Pulling some all-nighters, the group has constructed a computer-controlled "suit" made of high-tensile fabric tubes, which, when inflated, look like modular geometry but have the flex and feel of muscle and cartilage.
MacMurtrie sees parallels between non-organic and organic design. Pointing to the machinery - a computer, an air blower, a crazy-looking Rube Goldberg
panel of cylinder and switches, he talks of the piece's brain, lungs, nerves.
MacMurtrie will debut the piece, called Inflatable Robotic Arts
in Canada, in an extended performance that runs from 4:00 to 7:00 tonight. After that, the remnant of the performance, with a video recording and another very cool biological-technological hybrid work, will be on view in the School of Art Gallery until April 27th.