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See and Hear LACMA's Zippy New Mini-City "Metropolis II"

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Photos by Elizabeth Daniels

Artist Chris Burden says that his huge, noisy, chaotic city sculpture "Metropolis II" "refers specifically to Los Angeles, but an idealized Los Angeles of the future where traffic flows at ten times the rate it dow now." He's talking about something like the self-driving Google cars, which boosters say will streamline traffic by removing human error. (Burden, by the way, is constantly making cars slow down on Wilshire Blvd. with his "Urban Lights" lamp post installation.) "Metropolis II," which open tomorrow in a large room on the ground floor of LACMA's BCAM (formerly home to one of Richard Serra's huge sculptures), has "an elaborate system of 18 roadways, including one 6 lane freeway, and HO scale train tracks," according to LACMA. 1,100 custom-made Hot Wheels-style cars zoom around erector set and LEGO buildings at a scale speed of about 240 mph--they're pulled up a conveyor belt by a magnet, then ride gravity through the Teflon-covered course (the trains are "out of the box electric train sets," according to the museum's Unframed blog. LACMA built a catwalk around the room for Eagle eye viewing, and put up a couple of walls that help buffer the sound. The thing is loud (check the video down below), but everyone we talked to at a press preview the other day thought it was also kind of soothing.

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's site profiles the people who made it happen--about 14 who spent a total of five years building "Metropolis II": "There were two special-effects artists and two college-level art instructors, a maker of artisan snowboards, woodworkers, ceramicists and assorted masters of fine arts from UC Riverside and UCLA. One of the craftsmen on the prototype was the lead guitarist in the L.A.-based band 'Dengue Fever.' Much of the infrastructure and train wiring was done by a heavy diesel mechanic-turned-jewelry-designer who was a finalist last year on Lifetime Television’s 'Project Accessory.'" LACMA's hired two of the workers to operate and maintain the piece at LACMA.

"Metropolis II" opens tomorrow, but will only run at certain times Fridays through Sundays. It'll be open to viewing whenever the museum is.
· Little Freeway Network "Metropolis II" On Its Way Into BCAM [Curbed LA]
· Metropolis II [LACMA]

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