LOS ANGELES — Twists and turns. Long, wide highways and rapidly moving cars. Trains circle in and out and around tall, exaggerated buildings. This frenetic energy is happening in Los Angeles, but on a micro scale: it’s a Chris Burden installation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Metropolis II — larger and more elaborate than its predecessor — features 1,100 toy cars zipping along at a scale speed of 240 miles per hour along a vast network of roadways in a hypothetical city. They’re lifted to the peaks of the tracks by magnetic conveyor belts, which then release them to the force of gravity. In total, some 100,000 cars circulate each hour.
It’s a fictitious world with familiar elements, like an Eiffel Tower-esque building and a spire resembling the Empire State Building’s. But most appear to be imagined by Burden and his assistants. The buildings, along with the highways, represent an idealized city. In Burden’s statement:
[Metropolis II] refers specifically to Los Angeles, but an idealized Los Angeles of the future where traffic flows at ten times the rate it does now … The noise, the continuous flow of the trains, and the speeding toy cars, produces in the viewer the stress of living in a dynamic, active, and bustling twenty-first century city.
Some video I shot of Chris Burden’s Metropolis II — dizzying and zipping along too fast for my iPhone camera.
If the installation is about twenty-first century cities, then it’s more reminiscent of fast-growing megacities, like Chongqing and Dubai, designed to support a rapidly-urbanizing and newly-industrialized populace. Metropolis II reads less like an ode to Los Angeles and more like an ode to cities that have tried their best to learn from LA’s — and the twentieth century’s — urban planning mistakes. In the process, we’re left with a dizzying level of development unprecedented in history and almost too impossible to fathom.
Metropolis II is on long-term loan to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (5905 Wilshire Blvd, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles). It runs on a specific schedule on weekends, so be sure to check the LACMA web page.