Again and again she returned to an intricate stretch just south of the interchange where successful passage from the Hollywood onto the Harbor required a diagonal move across four lanes of traffic. On the afternoon she finally did it without once braking or once losing the beat on the radio she was exhilarated, and that night slept dreamlessly.
-Joan Didion Play It as It Lays
You might not own a car; perhaps you bike to work, or take Metro everywhere. Regardless, you can’t escape the suffocating, soul-crushing, ever-present traffic of Los Angeles. Traffic is our currency. An unexpectedly short commute is worth tweeting about. “Where were you when Obama drove across the city?” Traffic is the reason someone doesn’t come to your party. Traffic is the indie band you discovered years ago before anyone else- “I’ve been taking Sixth Street for years, who are you people?” The irony that I sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Fairfax in order to view an exhibit about traffic was not lost on me.
Los Angeles artist Chris Burden’s Metropolis II at LACMA stuns as a frenetic, deafening microcosm of a city riddled with drivers (and from the looks of it, no parking whatsoever.) The sculpture features 18 roadways winding around the steel structure complete with sky scrapers and towers. Hundreds of custom-made small cars race dizzyingly around the tracks at speeds up to 240mph. Epic traffic jams await every car in the center console where an employee stands to keep things running smoothly (like LADOT or…God?) Approximately 100,000 cars will cycle through the sculpture at an hourly rate.
Chris Burden’s other work at LACMA, Urban Light, a collection of 202 cast iron lamps that once graced various streets around Los Angeles has become the establishing shot of Los Angeles. This interactive sculpture glows nightly like a beacon attracting passerby on Wilshire, bringing the community together. With Pacific Standard Time’s current Performance and Public Art Festival reminding us of the great art that has come out of Los Angeles, also take a look at Burden’s history of ground-breaking performance art from the 70s. The guy shot himself in the arm!
Metropolis II will only run on Fridays and weekends so be sure to check the schedule before you visit. Check out this excellent documentary about the four year duration of making of Metropolis II.