ROBOTRONIKA - hypermatic:automagic
19 - 23 June 1998 Museumsquartier, Vienna/Austria

Amorphic Robot Works/Chico Macmurtrie, USA
"Telescoping Totem-pole"
Robotic rubber inflatable, 1997

The first in a series of totem-poles, to be used in creating a forest of rubber inflatables, the "Telescoping Totem-pole" is an organic robotic sculpture. It is a metaphoric representation of the human form, the sculpture denotes the various forms found in our bodies. As the sculpture grows and recedes the complexities of our internal structure are revealed.

In various stages, images of viscera unfold from the fabric, heads and premature forms emerge, rising to a promontory position over the elevating form. The symbolic representation of the viscera, heads and forms being birthed from an organic mass is a reflection of our own internal cycle. Like all things that grow, a recollection of the impulse to arise, and subsequently subside, is generated by an internal clock. Similarly, the totem-pole has a computer to actualize the incentive to grow, mature, unveil and abate. Though the sculpture shares traits found in robotic automata, a mechanical actuator and feedback system, the references to organic form conveys a radically different interpretation of robotics. The observer of the succeeding stages of the totem-pole is symbolically witnessing the transformative characteristics inherent in an evolving form. The totem-pole is a continuation of my examination of the organic representation of the human condition through the medium of machines.

Chico MacMurtrie was born in New Mexico in 1961, and currently works out of his studio in San Francisco. He received his B.F.A. from the University of Arizona and an M.F.A. in New Forms and Concepts from the University of California at Los Angeles. Originally working with painting and sculpture he began realizing the limitations of these disciplines in exploring his fascination with the dynamic nature of form. He began incorporating film, music, and performance to "uncover the primacy of movement and sound." The latex skins populating his paintings began to "break out of the canvas" eventually evolving into the robotic automata that crowd his studio. These early attempts to explore organic form and movement resulted in ritualistic performances involving the skins originally born of a two dimensional world. His puppet-like forms began to breathe, as he began incorporating pneumatics and mechanics into his sculptures. As author Alice Joanou observes, "He ascribes human sensibilities to non human objects, comfortably superimposing the physical and psychological patterns of the biological world upon the machine world of his making."