Metropolis II – A glimpse of the city of the future, Hot Wheels on steroids at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Metropolis II - A glimpse of the city of the future, Hot Wheels on steroids at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Metropolis II - A glimpse of the city of the future, Hot Wheels on steroids at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Link to see a video of Metropolis II at LACMA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TA8fj-MJe5s&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

Los Angeles is the city of the automobile. The culture of LA is based on the car. Come visit LA without a car, and you will find yourself wishing for one after 2 minutes. LA is a city of freeways, and people refer to distance in terms of how long it will take you to drive from here to there.

We recently when to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and got to see a glimpse of the city of the future, or Hot Wheels on steroids – which is what I called Metropolis II; the kinetic sculpture by Chris Burden now showing at LACMA.

“The future of automobile transportation is that there won’t be drivers anymore,” proclaimed Chris Burden to audible gasps and some giggles at the opening of Metropolis II, his giant kinetic sculpture now installed at LACMA.

http://www.lacma.org/art/exhibition/metropolis-ii

He used 1,100 customized Hot Wheels cars whirring through a city of building-block skyscrapers is a scale model of Burden’s vision for L.A.’s future: Cars that are swiftly autopiloted along pre-determined routes, moving ten times faster than they do today. Included in the ‘sculpture’ are also trains and trams weaving in and out of buildings and ‘roads’.

The customized Hot Wheels cars are dramatically lifted to a height of 8 feet by a magnetized conveyor belt then let loose through the city on a roller coaster network of plastic roadways, which weave thier way through the buildings which are constructed with Legos and Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets (a nod to his 2008 Rockefeller Center installation), and stacking slotted cards that echo the House of Cards created by the Eames Office. A dozen out-of-the-box electric trains chug casually through the sculpture to add the concept of light rail.

Metropolis II’s focus might be on the driverless car, but one of the most compelling features is human: one of Burden’s assistants must stand at the center of the city and monitor the tracks for potential Sigalerts. “It’s just like real life on the 405,” said operator Rich Sandomeno, pointing to safety measures like tiny brushes that slow the cars down around dangerous curves.
“It’s a hopeful future,” Chris Burden offered. “Cars will have an average speed of 230 miles per hour as soon as Google gets all their cars up and running.”

Of course he was alluding to Googles recently patented driverless car program.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2011/12/google-awarded-us-patent-for-driverless-car-technology.html

This may have been surprising to any art critics in the room, but the transit nerds like me nodded in agreement. According to transportation theorists, autonomous automobiles may be the only hope for curing L.A.’s humiliating gridlock. Giddy chatter of bike lanes peppers our conversations, but Metropolis II might be the more realistic visualization of L.A.’s transit future.

No matter what, it is mesmerizing to watch, and to see the joy in the children’s eyes when they first see it, is truly amazing.

Link to see a video of Metropolis II at LACMA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TA8fj-MJe5s&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

Metropolis II - A glimpse of the city of the future, Hot Wheels on steroids at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Metropolis II - A glimpse of the city of the future, Hot Wheels on steroids at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

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