Chico MacMurtrie, Border Crossers

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 locations where reconciliation is thought to be impossible.

Border Crossers is supported by generous grants from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the MAP Fund, and Texas Commission for the Arts. It additionally received significant financial support from BEEP {collection;} and through MacMurtrie’s Guggenheim Fellowship. The robotics and design for the project were further developed through artistic residencies at the University of Michigan / Institute for the Humanities; University of Applied Arts Vienna (Die Angewandte); Richard and Dolly Maas Gallery, School of Art + Design, Purchase College, SUNY; the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA); Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, New York, and at the Liberty Science Museum in Jersey City. The project has also received major support from Q21 MuseumsQuartier, Vienna; Muffathalle, Munich; Radialsystem, Berlin; ZERO1; City of San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs; Lucas Artists Programs at Montalvo Arts Center; Arizona State University Art Museum and Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts; DSM/Dyneema®.