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Growing Into Your Cultural Skin
3/11/1997 - 4/26/1997
Chico MacMurtrie (Amorphic Robot Works) designed a cutting-edge, site-specific installation utilizing interactive robotics and Latino dietary habits as a taking-off point for the examination of personal identity. The exhibition was videotaped and supplemented by printed educational materials, guided school tours, an artist-led workshop for emerging artists, and an artist's talk.
  Galería Exhibitions Reconstructing Califas: New Roads in Chicano Art <1997>
Growing Into Your Cultural Skin <1997>
Home Grown: The Fields of Califas <1997>
My Life as a Comic Stripper <1997>
My Cathedral <1997>
Día de los Muertos: Recuerdos Electrónicos <1997>
Hecho con Corazón: Bazaar Navideño <1997>
Related Media for this Exhibition
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Growing into your Cultural Skin is an interactive installation that centers around a humanoid machine that consumes and defecates lard. The piece confronts the viewer with what I believe is a choice – one can allow or prevent the robot from putting fat into its mechanical body – mirroring the viewer’s personal choice to put lard (unhealthy food) into his or her own body. For 20 years I had been returning home to southwest Arizona where all my Mexican relatives had immigrated. During the last family reunion, I noticed how a lard-based diet had taken an impact on the health of my relatives, many of whom suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure, and other illnesses resulting from obesity. I sat down and drew a picture of the way I would look if I grew into my cultural skin by choosing this kind of diet. The result is this exhibition.

My work addresses the most primitive aspects of the human condition: lard and obesity happen to be a result of living in a modern world. During the robot’s process of becoming obese, the audience enters the world of his subconscious. This “cave of the subconscious” includes mechanical images that represent the robot’s fears and fantasies. Within this cerebral womb cave, the characters investigate cultural and ancestral identity, and the ways in which heredity and evolution affect the outcome of health and life.

Over the years of working with the machine as a metaphorical and physical element in my sculpture, I have noticed how each human I see is an element in society as a whole, in the similar way that each of my machines make up a metaphorical element in the society that I have been creating. The beings in both of these parallel societies often behave in a similar fashion and are all part of a bigger machine.

At this point I have built more than 100 of these robots, both humanoid/anthropomorphic and abstract. The humanoid machines have the ability to learn through the process of programming as well as being taught something live by an audience member. Their actions depict the most primal aspects of the human condition: elegant, strong and threatening and at the same time, weak and pathetic. They stand, drum, draw, dance, tumble, and climb. The anthropomorphic machines depict conceptual elements. When all of the elements are brought together they form a unique and vulnerable society, affected by technology, and the environment in which they are placed.

I create myths with machines reflective of how humans deal with each other and their surroundings. This process is mirrored through Amorphic Robot Works (ARW), a group of artists, engineers and technicians, working together under my artistic direction, to create robotic performances and installations. ARW participated in Robots 92 in Nagoya, Japan, and also stage performances in Den Bosch, Dehaag and Eindhoven, Holland as well as Arhus and Copenhagen, Denmark. In 1993 Amorphic Robot Works exhibited Primitive Behavioral Patterns in Nagoya and Kawasaki, Japan and presented The Dog Monkey in conjunction with Zaccho Dance Theater at Theater Artaud. ARW’s credits include performances in France, Mexico, Japan for Automata ’94 exhibition, and performances at the Headland’s Center for the Arts which involved 45 individual robots.

I would like to thank the following Amorphic Robot Works members working on this show: Hardware and Software Development – Matt Daly, Frank Hauseman, Brian Kane, Stock, Mark Scheeff; Technicians, Welding Fabrication and Sculpture – Frank Aguilar, Anke Baier, Vicente Contreras, Carlos Corpa, Jesus Lopez, Malcolm McClay, Bruce Mulligan, Vicente Oropeza, and Mark Schrogendorfer.
Special thanks to Fred Karren of The Karren Company and Douglas and Sturgess.

Chico MacMurtrie
March 1997