We are excited to share that two of artist Chico MacMurtrie's "Border Crossing" sculptures have been launched at the U.S.-Mexico border. It was the first of a series of “Border Crossers” performances by MacMurtrie, organized in collaboration with the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts at the University of Texas at El Paso.
During winter semester 2018, MacMurtrie, as a visiting artist at the Institute for the Humanities, worked with U-M students planning, building, and launching a prototype of one of the robotic sculptures that poetically explored the notion of borders and boundary conditions. The Border Crossers were meant to encourage investigation of borders as constructed entities, both embodying a simple curiosity to see what lies on the other side of a border (national, architectural, environmental, etc.) and expression of a utopian desire to live in a world without borders.
The May 23 launch began as the two Border Crossers were slowly driven via radio control by community members to the border zone, led and accompanied by the project team, visitors, and other participants in festive, ceremonial processions. As the two Border Crossers "met" at the U.S.-Mexico border, the performance began. As the folded fabric tubes slowly filled with air, the inflatable soft machines grew upwards in an almost organic manner. The light grey, translucent fabric glowed with the sunlight and contrasted dramatically with the border wall. These metamorphosing sculptures slowly rose to several stories high and arched over the boundary.
When the Border Crossers reached their maximum height of 30–35 feet, a coiled fabric tendril gradually unfurled into an arch-like shoot that extended over the border and touched down on the other side. The sculptures had dramatically morphed into two arches of light that straddle the border, symbolizing the enduring cultural, ecological, and interpersonal connections across the border.