by Craig Stephens
With over 1200 specially built toys cars, running to scale at 200mph around a huge track, American artist Chris Burden has changed gears since his heyday in the 1970’s when he created compelling performance art pieces with a decidedly masochistic streak.
In 1971 for a performance piece he called Shoot; he was shot in his left arm by an assistant with a 45 caliber pistol arm from a distance of about five meters. Another 1974 performance, Trans-Fixed took place on April 23, 1974 at Speedway Avenue in Venice, California. For this, Burden lay face up on a Volkswagen Beetle and had nails hammered into both hands, as if beingcrucified on the car.
This time around the only masochistic element is enduring the legions of parents and kids who have been flocking to the exhibit at LA’s LACMA. Metropolis II,” is complex enough to need an operator. The miniature city in motion consists of 1,100 Hot Wheels-sized cars, 25 large buildings, 18 lanes of traffic, 13 trains and one human operator.
Burden says the work is inspired by futuristic and apocalyptic visions of cities succumbing to car overload. Burden believes, “Metropolis II,” will eventually become reality, with real cars racing across the hillsides and over the freeways of Los Angeles, putting an end to traffic gridlock.
He adds, “I’m personally looking forward to it because I don’t like driving in Los Angeles.” The cars featured in the exhibit were custom made to be heavier than your usual Hot Wheels models, but they won’t last forever.
LACMA has plans to sell the individual cars as museum souvenirs for an undoubtedly princely sum.
The exhibition will remain in place till the summer 2012.