At the beginning of the new year, Liberty Science Center welcomed its first ever Artist-in-Residence: Chico MacMurtrie!
MacMurtrie is a creative, innovative robotics expert. Through February, LSC guests can see work from his series Border Crossers in progress as MacMurtrie and his team – including some staff members from the Science Center – construct a piece in our enormous Governors Hall, the perfect spot to display a 30-foot-tall robotic creation!
Border Crossers consists of lightweight robotic sculptures made of strong fabric tubes controlled by a robotics system that triggers them to inflate. As these unique robots “grow” before your eyes, they form high arcs and connect into bridge-like structures. To MacMurtrie, this project “envisions technology as a positive tool to establish dialogues beyond borders.”We recently chatted with MacMurtrie about Border Crossers, how it feels to be LSC’s first Artist-in-Residence, and what he hopes guests take away from his work:
Chico MacMurtrie: Being here is a great opportunity, because a science museum has everything I need in terms of tools and the way I work. I love working with volunteers and people who want to learn things...and maybe most importantly, there’s a staff of exhibit builders and maintenance people who are helping me.
CM: Admittedly, some guests have been confused. But when you spend a little time and explain it to them, they’re like, “Oh really, you’re interested in making machines, but you’re really interested in humanity? You’re really interested in the human condition?”
CM: I think there’s a strange thing going on with this work, where you see this pile of fabric, and you can’t really associate anything with this pile of fabric. Then it starts to inflate, grow, and get taut. It’s got a life force in it, which is very similar to being human.
As humans, the simple aspect of being alive is a miracle. Then you see a machine doing it and you’re like “Whoa! This thing is alive!”
CM: I just want them to see the artist’s process. I think the most important thing about having an Artist-in-Residence in a museum format is that the audience can observe what’s going on, no matter what it is. So every day that I’m there, there’s something there for people to observe and see.
CM: Teenagers and young kids of this generation have an incredible accessibility to robotics. You can teach yourself how to build a machine. The question becomes, though, “Why do you want to do it?” past the initial thrill of making something move or come alive. To be an artist, you have to really want it, because it’s a lot of work. It’s not only a full-time job, it’s a lifetime job. But it’s a fabulous life as well.
See Border Crossers in progress during your next visit to Liberty Science Center, through February 23, 2020! Guests are also encouraged to see Border Crossers during our Engineering Everywhere celebration, running from Feb. 14-23. During this celebration of all things engineering, the building will be taken over by themed activities and adventures, including 3D printing, virtual reality, and robotics demos, plus tech displays and new hands-on labs.