LACMA | Metropolis II

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Metropolis II is an amazing exhibit on display at LACMA by Chris Burden. The exhibit appears to an audience like a huge hot wheel rack with toy cars floating above a block of child-like modeled skyscrapers. It is everything you ever dreamed of as a child but so much more when you look at it through the eyes of Humanities major like myself. For more specifics check out LACMA.

You have to look deep inside the structure to understand it's truly dynamic. You have look past the steel plates, hot wheels, and toy trains. It's sending a message about city life and how we, as humans, have become an extension of the car culture and architectural appeal that dates back to the Athenian age. We are visual creatures who are constantly moving from place to place. With regard to ancient times, Athenians were in love with themselves, and their buildings looked with regard to their own reflection. Most of the building in Metropolis II have some kind of marvel because they use glass or tile in them which allows you a little bit of vanity.

(Eames house of cards.)

From above the composition we see tangled cities, a good representation of Los Angeles, and the freeways that connect those cities. The skyscrapers give a very dense feel to a city layout that dates back to the Roman era. I believe that it is the Eames House of Cards within this exhibit clearly foretells the truth behind the conduct of people within the toy city. It asserts that the city is full of vanity and vain.

According to Burden, "The noise, the continuous flow of the trains, and the speeding toy cars produce in the viewer the stress of living in a dynamic, active and bustling 21st century city."

Burden exhibit definitely hit the nail on the head with that statement. Although, I don't agree with everything and artist does because I am an analytical student of Humanities, but I feel he did this very well. The active dynamic of the cars make the city appear to be small, in sustainability, but the freeways show the closed off relationships of individuals. for example, when a person is traveling along the free way they are isolated beings from what is happening in the dense city below. They elevated above the group below, the car become the focus of the activity, leaving the viewer to assume the city is dead below...High "virtuous" and below "evil." We do not see community within the city-scape and therefore have to assume that the cars are the only human inhabitants.

What about the skyscrapers you say? What do they represent? The same thing they did back during the Roman era, durability, utility, and beauty. Although you can see a lot of the major architectural beauties that were displayed here from around the world I will point out a few for you. Empire state building, the Taj Mahal, Saviour Tower and Intercession Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, and Eames House of Cards.

The main one that captures any Humanitarian eye, is the Eames House of Cards, because it not a skyscraper or world famous building compared to the others listed. It is there to represent something else " a metaphor" of what a house of card means. The metaphor does not match the Roman meaning behind architecture and that is why I picked it out of all the rest. The house represents instability, the opposite of durability, meaning that the house is not made for long standing foundation. The house is not a utility, because it does not provide the basic function of being a place of protection. As for beauty, it is overlooked an unappreciated.

Another analysis, pertains to how the cards are being utilized, you can see the cards are used to balance off one another. It implies that Los Angeles, or any other major city, is built on a house of cards (moving people) balancing off one another's interest. The ultimate semiotic language would be called a scheme. The scheme would the unreliable factor of moving human beings. The same way a city is constructed it can be deconstructed. My analysis asserts that a city is always nervous about the factors controlling it and what will bring it to its final demise if it can't keep up with the demand of the moving subject. Los Angeles had been stalled in growth with regard to transportation. After obtaining trains, it help some but not a lot, then it got Ford cars, and everything began to boom! With the rise of the automobile population started to increased and the city found out that it was inadequate with its road ways which eventually lead tot he creation of freeways.


Thanks for checking out this post. I had a great time at LACMA! I'm sorry it comes so late but I had to make sure I'd given this my best analysis because I study cities and people in graduate school and I didn't want to disappoint. I could of wrote a whole paper on this very subject but I wanted to confine it to the main points. I hope you liked it. If you have a different thought please feel free to comment below. I look forward to hearing what you have to say about it.

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  1. Wow that was a cool analysis! I like that you focused on the inclusion of the house of cards and developed an interpretation on how it represents the ideals and infrastructure of the city. I totally missed that when I saw the installation. Both times, haha! Great eye! If you wrote a paper on Burden's work, I could see it being useful in Professor Berg's Images and Artifacts class. | The Cultural Report | Cultural Blogger

    1. Thanks Johnny! I'm glad you found this to be an interesting read. I got lucky with finding that gem which made my analysis easy. I would definitely have found this installation useful for Professor Berg's course. Overall, glad to have you join me on this trip.


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