My Own Devices: About Chris Murphy

I have always felt a compulsion to put disparate stuff together. As a child I was never satisfied with the toys that I got until I had taken them apart to see what made them tick. Putting them back together was nearly as easy as taking them apart and so I got used to combining whatever I had to work with into unusual hybrids. Besides warping my world view, this practice helped form my view of materials as having a plastic nature outside of their original intended purpose.

Paleo electronics

While working in the electrical field I spent quite a bit of time with all sorts of antiquated equipment, usually trying to coax a bit more life out of it, or removing it in order to update it with a black box that could do the same job better and faster but without any of the mechanical beauty. I started to really admire the quality of the work and precision that went into these older devices and was often stunned at the complexity of function arrived at through the most simple means. The wiring and mechanical means of the piece became important design elements. I began to use these same means to bring the viewers eyes around the work.

I exposed the components and used the circuits to build in the third dimension. I also saw how slop in these mechanical systems can produce results that appear to mimic sentience. Part of this is due to the human tendency to organize order out of chaos. The demonstrative nature of these devices seemed fertile ground for creating a dialog with the viewer and the sculpture. With the kinetic work of this period I was hoping to set up ‘narratives’ for the viewer to react with. Even though the functions of these pieces are neutral (closed systems performing no real “work” per se,) people would respond emotionally to the pathos of some of these machines. In some of the later pieces this was accentuated by the reference to the figure.

The focus of my recent work has been an exploration of primal images such as those seen in Neolithic art. I am attempting to translate that resonance into personal terms using the materials of my trade and avocation. As a shaman would invoke the spirits with fire, these beadlike parts literally channel fire to perform magic. The wire, resistors, capacitors, clamps, terminals and PC boards also have an intrinsic beauty and a mystery of purpose that I hope adds to the arcane nature of these pieces.