Chico MacMurtrie’s Inflatable Architectural Growth (IAG) Narrative (2007-present)
For years, Chico MacMurtrie has been obsessed with creating sculptural works that blur the lines between human and machine, living and inanimate. As his collection of automatons nears the 300 mark, his focus has turned from building human-like machines to constructing clearly artificial forms, which seem somehow imbued with a life and mind all their own. From robots that copy the viewer’s movements, to a classic car that unfolds itself into a behemoth of a totem pole, MacMurtrie’s works always challenge the audience to interact with them as one would with another living being.
The Inflatable Growth project began in 2007, debuted in 2008, and finally reached “maturity” in 2010 at the Absolute ZERO Outdoor Street Festival in San Jose, CA. Utilizing his inflatable bodies technology, MacMurtrie’s flexible installation consists of four, five-meter robotic arms protruding from a central hub. The piece is installed in an outdoor public space to encourage maximum audience participation. Once a participant engages one of the four arms in play, the sculpture comes to life. Each arm reacts to the positioning and movement of it’s director, as well as direct touch via sensors located on its underside. Through experimentation with movement and touch, participants can work together to move the arms into complex and cohesive compositions, effectively collaborating with the seemingly sentient machine to create their own unique sculptures. Should the participants quickly exit the area when finished, the piece will return to its resting state; however, should they take the time to admire their work, the arms will linger in their pose to allow the unexpected-artists their gratification. The result, as desired by MacMurtrie, is that participants, machine, and onlookers alike come to feel a symbiotic relationship with one another, reinforcing the basic structures and characteristics of life that bind all things.