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Brooklyn, New York

Robotic Church

This former Norwegian sailor's church is slowly being taken over by ramshackle robot musicians. 

Thanks to mechanical art collective Amorphic Robot Works, the former Norwegian Seaman’s Church in Red Hook, Brooklyn is slowly filling up with twisted, clanging robots who, when activated, form a caterwauling orchestra of futuristic junk life.

Spearheaded by multimedia artist Chico MacMurtrie, the collection of 35 kinetic bots was started in the 1980s and has been slowly growing ever since. Inside the old church that acts as the collective’s studio, the robots are arrayed on the floor, hung high up on the walls, or stand peering over the catwalk. Most of the contraptions take on a humanoid form (some more than others), but the sizes of the metal musicians range largely from only a foot tall to a towering 15 feet tall. Each of the robots is designed to perform a unique task that creates their singular noise, be it by strumming the strings pulled taught on its body, or by clanging itself against the floor. Some of the robots are controlled by pre-programmed commands while others are played live via computer commands. While each of the robots can be activated independently, the effect created when the entire church space is alive with raucous robotic rhythm is stunning.

Most days the new denizens of the Robotic Church lie dormant, acting simply as the workshop for MacMurtrie and the Amorphic Robot Works. It is only during special performances that the church opens its doors to allow visitors into the most robo of holies to hear hymns created in a language only robots can understand.