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Fall 2020

Chico MacMurtrie: Border Crossers


Border Crossers is a large-scale performance and participatory procession involving several lightweight robotic sculptures and the trans-border communities in El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico. Border Crossers will perform a peaceful, symbolic, “crossing” of the U.S.- Mexico border using the combined power of art, technology and community to create a radically positive and inclusive view of border culture. The project will culminate in a series of coordinated public ‘activations’ at multiple sites in the El Paso, Texas/Juarez, Mexico area in collaboration with the Rubin Center for the Visual Arts at The University of Texas at El Paso. Each event involves the procession and activation of two or more pneumatic “soft-machines,” at both sides of the border. When the Border Crossers reach their maximum height of 30-35 feet, a coiled fabric tendril gradually unfurls into an arch-like shoot that “grows” over the border and touches down on the other side, forming multiple arches that straddle the border. The slow, organic movements and physical softness of these inflatable border crossing machines would contrast with the rigid metal fence, forming a powerful metaphor for the living relationship between the diverse communities along the border.

Border Crossers invites the public to rethink the notion of borders in a globalized world. Technology currently helps to overcome cultural and economic borders, but is also frequently used to maintain and reinforce physical borders. This project envisions technology as a positive tool to establish dialogues beyond borders, to question borders, and to create a symbolic suspension and transcendence of borders. Their actions allude to the equality of humanity against a backdrop of tensions and conflicts over national and cultural identity. This “gesture” could reinforce the hope for peace in location where reconciliation is thought to be impossible.


© Chico MacMurtrie/Amorphic Robot Works. Photo: ARW

Border Crossers has already received significant financial support from Colección BEEP de Arte Electrónico in 2017 and through MacMurtrie’s Guggenheim Fellowship. The robotics for the project were further developed through artistic residencies at the University of Michigan / Institute for the Humanities and at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna in 2018-2019. He is currently working on the Border Crossers as an artist in residency at the Liberty Science Museum in Jersey City. MacMurtrie has already completed several research trips to El Paso and Juarez through 2019 to begin building project support teams involving the sculpture departments at The University of Texas at El Paso and the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juarez. He will also engage two local artists as project coordinators on either side of the border, to build relationships with community participants and curate a diverse set of performers for the cross-border processions.

Link to Website:

© Chico MacMurtrie/Amorphic Robot Works. Photo: Luise Kaunert
© Chico MacMurtrie/Amorphic Robot Works. Photo: Bobby N. Adams