When we met Chico MacMurtrie in October, the wild-haired engineer/artist took us from the nave of his robot-covered converted Norwegian sailors’ church into what probably had been the sacristry, a modest room off to the side, where he showed us his plans for an inflatable sculpture that would span the border between two places. MacMurtrie was excited about the project and began to delve into the details of its engineering. We did our best to keep up.
The Guggenheim Foundation announced Wednesday that MacMurtrie and his organization, Amorphic Robot Works, will received a Guggenheim Fellowship for the project, Border Crossers, described as, “A series of lightweight robotic sculptures that poetically explore and question the notion of borders. This project treats the border as a physical condition that can be temporarily transcended by technological and symbolic proxies.”
MacMurtrie has already installed one of these structures, in San Jose, Calif. This year he will install up to six more across the U.S.-Mexico border, and potentially other fraught borders around the world. Think of it as an artistic counterpoint to Donald Trump’s anti-immigration bluster.
“Border Crossers would stage a symbolic connection and represent a metaphor for peace in locations where reconciliation is thought to be impossible,” according to Amorphic Robot Works.
The Guggenheim Foundation did not announce a dollar amount for the prize, but a look at their 2014 annual report showed liabilities of $5.7 million for fellowship prizes. If they are distributed evenly, that’s about $32,000 per recipient.