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LACMA exhibit Metropolis II pulses w/ traffic

January 6, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A new exhibit about to go on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art gives a dynamic view of 21st century traffic. It's so intriguing, nearly everyone will enjoy it.

It pulses with the energy of a real city, and the arteries of this exhibit are filled with hundreds of miniature cars. They shoot through straight-a-ways and overpasses on a road trip that never ends.

"They can crash; they can fly off the track; they can bump into each other," said artist Chris Burden.

Burden spent four years creating this installation, which he calls Metropolis II. It's part erector set, part model railroad- complete with a landscape that features everything from post-modern skyscrapers to Moroccan castles.

"One of these buildings took four, five months to build," said Burden. "So I'm thinking, wait a minute you could build a house in that amount of time- you could build an actual real house."

But it's the mesmerizing flow of traffic that sets the tone for this exhibit, which will soon be on display at LACMA.

Burden said he envisions a future where automated cars will drive us to our destinations. So Metropolis II is a metaphor for a way of life which he said will soon disappear.

"The idea an individual has the right and the ability to step on an accelerator to pass somebody on a blind curb in Topanga or something. Those days are just about done, folks," said Burden.

Burden created the museum's famous urban light installation. He says the inspiration behind Metropolis II came in part from something we all deal with every day- traffic.

"It is about Los Angeles or any big city that uses cars."

Burden's installation moves with the precision of a Swiss watch. The 1,100 cars are pushed up a conveyor belt by magnets, then gravity pushes them down Plexiglas freeways, as model trains lurch along at a considerably slower pace.

"You might have one flipped car or one problem in that hour and that's pretty good percentage," said Burden.

Metropolis II opens to the public on Jan. 14.