“Metropolis II” towers over patrons of the LACMA as soon as they step into the room. The massive structure is modern sculpture at its finest, featuring scale model buildings surrounded by multiple lane highways and the zipping noise of 1100 toy cars. Built by veteran artist Chris Burden over four years, “Metropolis II” uses conveyor belts to push the cars over the peaks of large hills, where they zoom down the other side and into branching side roads, carried by kinetic energy around through the futuristic city until they reach the next conveyor belt. It takes the cars only 40 seconds to circulate the track at 240 scale miles per hour, creating a distinctive sound.
According to Chris Burden, “It’s like freeway noise in miniature. The sound adds another level of anxiety. And there are also trains for additional motion, although those are slower than the cars” (Interview Magazine). As for the speed of the cars, Burden comments in “Metropolis II the movie” that “It makes me very hopeful for the future… The idea that a car runs free … those days are about to be closed.”
This isn’t the first time that Chris Burden’s visionary work has captured the imagination of the public. Chris Burden came onto the art scene in 1971 with his performance piece “Shoot” where he had an assistant shoot him in the arm with a rifle. In one of his most famous pieces, “Transfixed,” the artist was nailed to a Volkswagen Beetle reminiscent of a crucifixion. In an interview with Roger Ebert, Chris Burden described these “body art” pieces as “an examination of reality, a calling into question of what it is to exist.”
After a decade of testing his physical and psychological limits, Burden transitioned to large installation pieces such as “Metropolis II.” Much of his work has utilized cars and other marvels of the industrialized world to showcase themes of limitations, war, and the future. At the New Museum, an exhibition of Chris Burden’s work, “Chris Burden: Extreme Measures,” includes a display of 625 miniature submarines suspended in midair, representing every submarine built by the US Navy until 1987. The NY Times describes another recent piece in the exhibition, “Tale of Two Cities,” as depicting two cities entangled in a war of attrition with cannons and cavalry in a vision of the 25th century and a return to feudalism.
“Metropolis II” opened in 2011 and will run until 2021 at the LACMA. Chris Burden’s inspirational works are featured in many museums around the world.
You can see another video of “Metropolis II” here.