Chris Burden, Extreme Measures

photography Giorgia Valli

coordination Claudia Vitarelli

3 October 2013

Chris Burden discusses the works included in the first New York survey of his career, on view at the New Museum.

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On the left: 1 Ton Crane Truck, 2009. On the right: Porsche With Meteorite, 2013.

"1 Ton Crane Truck is an artwork that consists of a restored fully functioning 1964 F350 Ford crane truck and a custom-made one-ton cast-iron cube suspended from the truck’s crane boom. A PTO-driven winch operates the A-frame crane. The truck’s exterior has been painted orange, and the interior painted orange, black, and cream. The truck’s bed and headache rest have been replaced with new oak. Six new tires, new rubber mats, new seat covers, a new headliner, and two new visors have been installed."

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"Porsche with Meteorite is essentially a giant teeter-totter—with my fully operational 1974 yellow Porsche 914 weighing 2,190 pounds hanging from one end, and at the other end, a 390-pound nickel-iron meteorite, weighing approximately six times less than the Porsche. The Porsche is placed at the short end and the meteorite is placed at the long end, and the two balance each other out. 

The Porsche 914 was always considered the poor man’s Porsche, with its awkward body shape and light weight. It was marketed in the US as a Porsche and in Europe as a Volkswagen. To me, it made sense to combine the long and noted history of German metallurgy with a chunk of extraterrestrial iron."

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Triple 21 Foot Truss Bridge, 2013.

"In 2003, I produced a twenty-one-foot truss bridge built out of stainless steel reproduction parts. These parts were modeled after 1913 Mysto Type I Erector parts, a toy metal construction system. Triple 21 Foot Truss Bridge was originally conceived, as its name implies, as three twenty-one-foot bridges fused together, with each truss sharing a common vertical post. 

As I attempted to realize this idea, I modified the design to make the bridge more structurally coherent and sound. The modification included raising the height of the vertical posts and lengthening the parts of the truss so the final effect is a series of diamond-shaped structures linked by three trusses. I have effectively created a fifty-nine-foot cantilever bridge."

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Pair of Namur Mortars, 2013.

"This is an accurate reproduction of a giant seventeenth-century mortar that shoots an eighteen-inch-diameter cannonball. The original mortar is on view in the Tower of London. The reproduction mortars have been fabricated according to the original as a set of two."

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All the Submarines of the United States of America, 1987.

"All the Submarines of the United States of America is an installation I conceived and produced with New City Editions, Venice, California. It consists of 625 miniature cardboard submarines, each representing an actual submarine launched by the US Navy since the launching of the SS1 in 1897. It includes the US Polaris fleet of nuclear submarines, which provided the US with nuclear superiority vis-à-vis the Soviet Union."

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A Tale of Two Cities, 1981.

"This miniature reconstruction of two city-states at war with each other uses over five thousand war toys from the United States, Japan, and Europe. The whole tableau is set on a sand base, which acts simultaneously as a metaphor for both the desert and the ocean. Each city is protected by the natural rock formations or “city walls” formed by rows of actual bullets. Behind each city is a large collection of houseplants representing the jungle. The piece can be viewed in detail only through the use of a set of binoculars."

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The Big Wheel, 1979.

"The Big Wheel consists of an eight-foot-diameter, six-thousand-pound (three-ton), cast-iron flywheel mounted in a vertical position on a wooden support structure of six-by-six-inch timbers. The axle of the large wheel is supported by two low-friction bearings. A motorcycle is positioned so that it can be rocked backwards, making firm contact between the rear tire and the iron wheel. The motorcycle is then “driven” through its gears until its maximum speed is reached. The motorcycle is then pulled away, leaving the large wheel spinning silently at about two hundred RPM. Because of the enormous amount of kinetic energy stored in the wheel, it continues to spin for about 2.5 hours before coming to a rest."

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On the left: The Rant, 2006. On the right: Tyne Bridge Kit, 2004.

"An extreme close-up of my face is projected onto a wall, several times larger than life-size. Assuming the persona of a ranting xenophobic preacher, I deliver a short, intense monologue in French. Filmed and edited by Michael Rudnick."

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"In 2002, I built a thirty-one-foot-long replica of the actual Tyne River Bridge, which is located in Newcastle upon Tyne/Gateshead, England. The replica was built entirely of Meccano-type steel parts (a metal toy construction system similar to Erector). Most of these parts were produced to my specifications so that I could model every beam and strut in the actual bridge. The parts were painted the correct color of green and brass nuts and bolts were used throughout. 

Because I had gone to considerable effort to calculate the specific metal parts to build this bridge, it seemed a waste to only produce one work, the Tyne Bridge. Therefore, I conceived of the Tyne Bridge Kit, in the manner of traditional boxed Erector sets. To that end, a large wooden chest with multiple drawers was constructed to hold all the metal parts. The chest also contains all the tools, a blueprint of the bridge, and extensive photo documentation of the building process. The two hundred thousand parts in the one-ton Tyne Bridge Kit represent a potential, like water behind a dam. It was not my intention that these kits would be built, but rather would be seen as the Tyne Bridge in a condensed form."

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L.A.P.D. Uniforms, 1993.

"L.A.P.D. Uniforms is an edition of thirty oversized police uniforms, created in collaboration with the Fabric Workshop, in Philadelphia, during my 1992–93 residency. The seven-foot-tall uniforms are equipped with badges, belts, batons, handcuffs, bullets, and 92F Beretta handguns. The uniforms replicate the official uniform of the Los Angeles Police Department. Viewed from a distance, the uniforms appear to be normal size, close up they assume larger-than-life proportions."

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On the left: All the Submarines of the United States of America (detail), 1987. On the right: Beehive Bunker, 2006.

"Beehive Bunker is a conical-shaped structure made out of stacked bags of premixed concrete, i.e., gravel, sand, and cement. The structure is built using only manual labor and employs no cranes or other specialized tools or machinery. In situ, a team of three men hand-stacks the ninety-pound bags of concrete in a circle. The concrete bags are placed in layers and the concrete is hardened by garden soaker hoses that are placed between each layer during construction. 

Beehive Bunker was conceived as an extremely low-cost defensive structure to be occupied by one to three persons. Those using the bunker can enter through an opening at the top of the structure and close the thick metal manhole cover once inside. Like ancient castles, the Beehive Bunker is provided with six vertically slit windows through which the occupants can fire their weapons. Beehive Bunker provides the combatants inside protection from substantial small arms fire. Because of its simple and conical shape, Beehive Bunker would be more difficult to destroy than a rectangular building. It is, in essence, always offering a deflective surface against the trajectory of incoming bullets. Complementing the structural function of this building is the aesthetically pleasing shape, which, ironically, is the shape of a bullet."

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Chris Burden Deluxe Photo Book, 1971-73, 1974 and Chris Burden Deluxe Photo Book, 1974-77, 1977.

Chris Burden: Extreme Measures is on view until January 12, 2014. 

The New Museum is located at 235 Bowery, New York. 

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