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‘Perceptual Experience' art experience delights visitors on Mag Mile

A new art exhibition called “Perceptual Experience” is bending minds and delighting hearts on the Magnificent Mile. Kye Martin has the story.

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How Michael Murphy’s Interactive Art Challenges The Viewer


Perceptual art asks the viewer to be an active participant. In a genre that hovers between the art of illusion and traditional art, it offers a sensory trip of sorts designed to open our eyes to new ways of experiencing art. One of the leading artists creating within this realm is Art Institute of Chicago alumni and internet sensation Michael Murphy, whose inaugural perception-shifting, interactive show involving sight, sound and movement, “Perceptual Experience,” opens in Chicago this week.

Murphy shot to fame in 2007 with the portrait of the then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, sparking the “Art for Obama” movement involving works by thousands of other artists. He has since been commissioned to collaborate with Nike, Netflix, PepsiCo, Samsung, NFL, Google, Tumi, Toyota, Fox Sports, and Sky Sports. His impressive 3D hanging installations, some playful, some political — standing up for women’s rights, supporting the LGBTQ community, honoring the Ukrainian people, promoting the need for gun control — play with the mind, inviting viewers to see beyond the surface to spark conversation about how we view art and possibly the world.

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I spoke with Murphy to understand the concept and his approach.

Why perceptual art, and what was your path to discovering this genre?

I’ve made things my entire life. While I was in art school, I tried to allow myself to create whatever felt natural to me, things that I found interesting, that were fun, and that were meaningful to me. Experimentation was at the heart of everything I did. Play was also an essential component. Once I started to become established or set in my ways, I looked back at what I was doing and tried to analyze how the work I was making fit into the bigger picture of art history. What historical genre would the work I’m making fall into? So, I analyzed the work and deduced that the key component of the work was perception and the viewer’s experience. The closest genre that aligned with what I was making was perceptual art.

What are the challenges in creating artwork that shifts our perception from different sightlines?

It was really difficult at first — more of a technical challenge, though. If you can see it in your mind, you can typically figure out a way to build it. The hardest part is allowing your brain to imagine something that has never existed before; being able to visualize something completely new is the real challenge. It isn’t easy because most things that float around in our minds are from our memories. You have to take a leap away from reality and let yourself go to create something unique.

Your work appears to carry many messages, some with great agency. How do you feel the viewer experience — the multiple experiences — heightening the message?

My works are designed to have multiple different interpretations. They are about the viewer’s perception. Perceptual experience literally refers to the process of a human receiving stimuli from an outside source. I feel that when someone interacts with an artwork, their interpretation of that artwork is the right one; what they take away from it is theirs, and it is “correct.” When I view an artwork, there are things that I take away. Those interpretations are my own. I consider the artworks to have the potential to be meaningful to different people in different ways.

The art world is changing to be more dynamic and inclusive of different voices. In your view, what are the limitations?

There is much more to gain by more voices finding a platform in the art world. Social media has allowed artists to share their creations with the world outside of the traditional circles of galleries or critics, which historically have also been gatekeepers as far as who can be seen and heard. Several of my works have had hundreds of millions of impressions despite not being attached to a gallery or art critics. I have self-published many of my artworks without outside financing. The limitations? The art world is not dynamic or inclusive. It’s a closed circuit. I’m not really involved in that. The things I make just happen to fall into the category of art.


What are the opportunities for artists today?

The increased visibility of artists is a great opportunity for artists to address some important topics. Freedom of speech is directly related to freedom of expression. Right now, freedom of speech is under attack, and artists’ freedom of expression is also threatened. Censorship is on the rise, and corporate capture is controlling the information that we can access and publish. Art-making provides a lot of opportunities. Artists can use it to communicate, inspire, and challenge the status quo.

How do you view the role of art?

Art is something that can function in a number of capacities. It can be intellectually stimulating. It can be visually stimulating. It can be abducted by politicians and used as propaganda. For me, art is a form of communication and a way to create experiences for people and stimulate critical thinking. My work doesn’t tell people what to think. It tells them to think.

Perceptual Experience: Interactive Art Exhibit opens Friday

Michael Murphy, a graduate from The Art Institute of Chicago, is premiering the largest single collection of his works in Friday at The Shops at North Bridge. The perceptual artist transforms what spectators see by their vantage point. The Chicago show will be followed by a multi-year world tour.

Michigan Avenue is a world-famous shopping destination, but these days it’s also a hotbed of intriguing visual culture, from the Museum of Ice Cream to the recent hit Prince: The Immersive Experience. The latest must-see? Perceptual Experience, an immersive exhibition from New York-based perceptual artist Michael Murphy, whose work has been showcased in publications like Time magazine and through partnerships with brand like Nike, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Bombardier. “I like to think that a person’s interpretation is a bit of a reflection of the individual,” says Murphy, who received his master of fine arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2003.

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In Murphy’s show, the art does not exist until the viewer makes it happen—that is, the works come into being as the viewers move around them. From one side of the room, “Air” looks like the Air Jordan 1 sneaker before transforming into the Chicago’s legend’s Jumpman silhouette, which Murphy says nods to the current sneaker culture and his relationship with the Jordan brand (he was tapped to create an Air Jordan sculpture for Niketown Chicago in 2014). “The work in the show is inspired by a sort of state of current affairs in the U.S. and abroad,” he shares. “[Some] are inspired by the conflict in Ukraine and the prowar propaganda surrounding it.” When speaking of a work titled “Polina,” which depicts a portrait of a six-year-old girl, Murphy says, “[She] was fleeing Ukraine when I started her portrait.”

Debuting the exhibit in Chicago is a proud moment for Murphy. “It feels like I’ve come full circle, as I cut my teeth as an artist in Chicago. I developed much of the tech used in the show here,” he says. “I left Chicago as an aspiring artist and am returning now as an established one. I love Chicago, and I hope that comes through with the show.” Through Jan. 28, The Shops at North Bridge, 540 N. Michigan Ave.

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Perceptual Experience: An Interactive Art Exhibition


Perceptual Experience is an all-new interactive art experience from renowned inventor and artist Michael Murphy, whose groundbreaking work in perceptual art has captivated audiences worldwide.

Perceptual Experience is designed for active participation. Touching across a variety of topical subjects and bringing a number of Murphy's most celebrated creations together for the first time, guests are treated to an unforgettable sensory journey where illusion meets art through large-scale, layered works that incorporate sight, sound and movement.

Experiential 3D installations shift shape and meaning as the viewer moves, from the playful and visually dazzling “Wow” to the poignant “Polina” inspired by the story of a Ukrainian refugee girl and her family. Also on view will be one of Murphy’s most iconic pieces, “Air,” in which an illusion of the Air Jordan One transforms into the iconic Jumpman logo. A School of the Art Institute of Chicago alumni, Murphy also will debut new works including an installation dedicated to Chicago that is made up of iconography from the city’s past and present.

Curious minds from all walks are invited to experience the mesmerizing world of Perceptual Experience and join the conversation surrounding the power of perception in art and beyond. To learn more about this limited time event, visit our website.  

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Chicago is playing host to the can’t-miss event of the fall -- the world premiere of an extraordinary interactive art experience showcasing Art Institute of Chicago alum Michael Murphy’s trailblazing perceptual art. Debuting at The Shops at North Bridge, Perceptual Experience is equal parts art, illusion and perception, where guests move around transformative artworks that reveal themselves anew from different vantage points.

Unlike traditional art displays, Perceptual Experience is designed for active participation. Visitors are encouraged to change their vantage points and engage with the artworks from different angles. As they do so, the pieces transform and evolve, revealing new dimensions and perspectives.

Michael Murphy, renowned for his unconventional artistry, is a master of optical illusions and multidimensional installations. Complemented by custom audio experiences that give guests a full sensory experience, the massive 3D hanging installations invite viewers to see beyond the surface.

In Perceptual Experience, Murphy takes his expertise to new heights, engaging viewers in a captivating exploration of how our brains process visual information. Through meticulously crafted arrangements of objects and strategic use of perspective, Murphy challenges visitors' perceptions, prompting them to question the very nature of reality and what meaning we ascribe to what we see.

Perceptual Experience is doesn't just captivate the senses; it also acts as a catalyst for meaningful conversations. Touching across a variety of topical subjects, the one-of-a-kind collection brings number of Murphy’s most celebrated creations together for the first time. The captivating experiential installations ranges from the playful and visually dazzling “Wow” to the poignant “Polina” inspired by the story of a Ukrainian refugee girl and her family. Also on view will be one of Murphy’s most iconic pieces, “Air,” in which an illusion of the Air Jordan One transforms into the iconic Jumpman logo.

“I’ve always been fascinated by how a person’s viewpoint can dramatically alter their impression of a piece of artwork,” said Murphy. “This collection was designed to showcase how when using this medium we can reveal new perspectives and previously unseen dimensions that were in some ways hiding in plain sight.”

Murphy employs a combination of kinetic sculptures, suspended objects, and precisely calculated angles to create these astonishing optical illusions. As visitors navigate through the experience, they'll get the uncanny sensation of witnessing inanimate objects coming to life, transforming and shifting before their eyes.

As visitors step into this immersive world of illusions and innovation, they are poised to witness art's potential to shape, reshape, and shift the way we perceive the world around us.


Tickets are available at Guests can opt for VIP tickets for an enhanced experience and special souvenir from the experience, and can also round out their visit with drinks and food offerings.


Debuts September 14, 2023 for a limited time at The Shops at North Bridge

540 N Michigan Ave


Perceptual Experience is produced by leading location based entertainment providers Immersive with Kilburn Live. Visit or @ThePerceptualExperience.

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