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Artist Shows Potential Future of Automobile Travel

Ralphie Aversa
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Not only is this sculpture in Los Angeles far from the average toy car set, it also may provide a peek into the future of automotive transportation.

Artist Chris Burden created the piece, titled Metropolis II. In it, over 1,100 toy cars circulate across 18 different roadways, one of which is six lanes wide. The toys move around the buildings at a rate of 240 scale miles per hour, meaning they would be moving at 240 mph were the whole installation life-size. According to a press release from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the equivalent of 100,000 cars circulate every hour. The piece opened in 2011.

“That’s about the speed they should be running,” Burden said of how fast the cars move. He talked about his piece in a short documentary by filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, directors of the controversial "Catfish." “Not 23. 4 miles per hour, which is what my BMW says I average driving around L.A.”

The sight of the cars moving in sync is fascinating enough, but Burden’s vision transcends the material.

“The idea that a car runs free … those days are about to be closed,” the artist predicts. “It’s a little bit like making a model of New York City at the turn of the last century, and you’re modeling horse buggies everywhere. And then, the automobiles are about to arrive.”

Burden believes something else is about to arrive. In the interim, your imagination can run wild as to what that is by watching his sculpture in action. The piece took four years to create. In addition to the cars on the track, an additional 11,000 stand by in case one breaks. The museum staffs two attendants to the sculpture to clear any traffic jams or other issues. It is scheduled to run every weekend until 2021. Burden’s creation comes to the museum courtesy of the Nicolas Berggruen Charitable Trust.