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Something a bit different; kinetic art
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Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Aug 2011   |  9:53 pm GMT  |  41 comments

We had a fascinating debate on JA on F1 last week, prompted by a post on Electric Vehicles’ place in motorsport and the extent to which the FIA should try to incorporate electric technology into F1 cars and its efforts to establish a state of the art international EV racing series leveraging F1′s global appeal. The post had well over 200 comments with some really interesting observations.

One step on from that, I’ve been fascinated by this short video sent to me by a friend who lives in Los Angeles, the city of the car.

It’s about a work called Metropolis II by artist Chris Burden, which is going on display at Los Angeles County Museum of Art this Autumn. It is called ‘kinetic art’ and basically it’s a huge installation which runs 1,200 miniature cars on 18 lanes – Burden’s idea is to ‘evoke the energy of a city’, but also to ask questions about what comes next, after the car.

It has nothing to do with F1, but I think readers will allow this brief diversion as it’s very thought provoking. As a piece aiming to evoke the energy of a city it seems to work. And it did get me thinking, wouldn’t it be cool if someone could produce some kinetic art to capture the energy and drama of F1?

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41 Comments
  1. CJM says:

    Know a beardy bloke who does that in his shed…

    Seriously though, what a wonderful installation. One huge simile (toy?) packed full of metaphors; my favourite, as I see it, being the cogs and conveyor parody of the economy.

    As a curiosity (to your curiosity), this put me in mind of a documentary I saw about the dynamics of swarms – locusts, starlings, sardines et al – and, despite doing similar things very tightly packed in 3D, how they don’t crash into each other.

    Can you imagine how the current, or any other, crop of F1 drivers would get on in a) the displayed art installation and b) a swarm? Carnage…

    ~ SV was in the one getting a helping hand ;-) ~

    1. wayne says:

      When I read this article (before watching the video) I sighed at the thought of yet another interpretation of ‘modern art’ and another installation such as the ‘man turning on light-bulb’, ‘bisected cow’ or ‘dirty bedroom’.

      Having watched the video, I am rather impressed although I am sure a lot of the piece’s appeal is in the camera work and editing. It’s quite an effective social commentary and, as CJM rightly points out, is bursting with metaphor – the most effective moment for me was when the installation was switched off and everything ground to a halt and then switched back on again – probably an extension of CJM’s insightful ‘cogs of industry’ observation.

  2. Quercus says:

    As I said on the previous thread, it reminds me of the packing line in any big fmcg factory.

    Watching little packs of Oxo cubes, Aspirin or whatever flying around the lines, I’ve often been struck by the similarity with a Scalextric set.

    1. Trent says:

      As someone who works at a big FMCG factory – I agree! Though we are generally trying to configure the length of the path to be minimised – I don’t think this was the artist’s objective in this case!

      1. Jim, Belfast says:

        Yea lets just have an F1 GP around spaghetti junction!. Lets see Martin Brundle trying to work out what corner someone passed someone there!

      2. I think they actually had one back in the 1930s. I am trying to find out where it was, but can’t at the moment.

        I remember looking at the circuit layout thinking how ridiculous it would be to have a race like that, but how it would probably be fun to drive for at least a few laps!

  3. Trent says:

    I’ve always dreamt about an F1 circuit with a load of overpasses and cross overs. I think it came from the Scalextric days when rooms was limited. Maybe someone can put Tilke onto this project!

    1. meens says:

      vertical loop? :D

      1. Fluebroggle says:

        Given that formula 1 cars would be able to drive upside down through a tunnel, loop the loop should not present any worries!

    2. It’s been done! 50 years ago, when silly ideas like that were actually brought to fruition!

      http://www.autobahnspinne.de/images/im03c1989e3a148e205.jpg

      1. Trent says:

        Long sweeping straights with tight corners – not so different from the old Hockenheim!

  4. Rich C says:

    >…wouldn’t it be cool if someone could produce some kinetic art to capture the energy and drama of F1?

    You’re going to put Bernie on display as an objet d’art???

  5. SBN says:

    It is a glorious piece of art.

    A mini camera on one of the cars would be exciting as well.

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. FordGT40 says:

    That was pretty cool. Thanks for sharing the link with us all.

  7. Michael Toronto says:

    Cool! Thanks James.

  8. Dave Aston says:

    Fantastic! I love it. Brilliant how they leave an overview of the whole piece until the last shot.

    1. FastGuy says:

      Exactly! I thought the same thing: brilliant to build up the tension of waiting for an overview shot, and what a shot it is. Suddenly you can see why it has been 4 years in the making, as size and complexity become major elements of the experience. A beautiful work.

      Both the film and the music are very reminiscent of a film called “Koyanisqaatsi,” which is a comment on our pace and quality of life. I don’t know how well known it is; I should probably refer to it as obscure. But I do know that it’s highly respected in film circles. I recommend it if you enjoyed the feel and substance of this film.

  9. iceman says:

    It seems there’s a fine line between art and a hotwheels track :) I love it though, it makes me want to regress to my childhood and play with some toy cars again.

  10. JohnBt says:

    WHOAA! what an installation. Kudos to Chris Burden

  11. Kieran says:

    That’s fascinating, I’d love to see it in real life. It does seem to invoke the energy of a city though … just fascinating. I could watch it all day.

  12. bmw1806 says:

    That was amazing, James. What a brilliant piece of model making! Could watch it over and over. Many congratulations to the guy who has spent years making it.

  13. Nic Maennling says:

    It did remind me of the opening scenes from the 1922 Fritz Lang film Metropolis (without the flying machines!). In a way, it depicts a fragile world because a failure of some sort , collision or power failure, could reduce it to another form of chaos. It’s beautifully constructed, I’d love to see it.

  14. Chris Burden’s a fantastic artist – thanks for sharing this.

    I think F1 should develop some art connections… I bumped into (and interviewed, briefly) Ron Dennis at the Frieze Art Fair in London last year. He’s clearly a very big collector. I wonder what gems McLaren have hidden away at their HQ?

    1. James Allen says:

      Do you know who organises Frieze Art Fair? Ted Kravitz’s brother !

      1. Oh really!? That’s amazing – I wouldn’t have had a clue they were related but can really see the resemblance now you mention it!

        Very funny, there was me thinking Ron was a fish out of water there…

  15. Scalextric at the Tate Modern perhaps?

  16. Jarv027 says:

    I hope that will be New York’s track layout if F1 goes there!

  17. Tim Parry says:

    Reminds me of my youth when slot car emporiums were all the rage for a few years.

  18. russ says:

    Very very thought provoking. Did any one else think of money moving around The city. Kind of a long up hill struggle followed by a short but exciting descent. I won’t offer up anymore even less well thought out observations but will think of it a lot. Thanks. James.

  19. Chris says:

    That was really quite wonderful.

  20. LAH says:

    is it just me, or does the artist resemble one mr. j.button?

    1. George Goad says:

      @LAH. That’s not Chris in the clip, probably an assistant. Chris is quite, em, formidable looking nowadays.

      BTW (1) Jensen Button made the best-dressed list in Vanity Fair Magazine.

      BTW (2) the Senna doc just opened in L.A. with a glowing review in the L.A. Times

      1. James Allen says:

        Can you share a link to the review?

  21. Mario says:

    what’s next after car? hopefully we’ll go up in the air, 10 level junctions, no speed limit and things like that.

    nice installation. made me dreaming.

  22. fausta says:

    I haven’t been to the LA Museum of Art for a while, I guess I will go see it in the Fall.
    Very interesting piece, thanks for sharing!

    1. James Allen says:

      Send us some pics and your thoughts on the installation when you go. Thanks

  23. DonSimon says:

    Thanks James, perfect way to spend the off season. Nice piece of art. As an animation/motion graphics designer it’s nice to see something that combines my two loves.

  24. Alex says:

    Horse racing didn’t die out when cycling became popular. Nor cycling when motorsport arrived. And when Trains were invented, they didn’t kill off the Horse and Cart. The Car did. Now, Cars and Trains and Trams and Buses and Planes and Boats all co-exist and their respective racing categories haven’t infringed on anyone else’s. Perhaps fuel powered, big engine motorsport can mutually exclusively co-exist with electric race categories instead of competing with/against them. Everybody loves a new sport and this initiative will have more than enough investment pumped into it. I like to think of F1 and Horse Racing as similar sports in terms of cliental and the general atmosphere and I can definitely see F1 continuing as it does, with the source of power it currently uses for a long time to come.

  25. Rich C says:

    freakin awesome!

  26. Roger W says:

    Brilliant – reminded me of this – hxxp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvZ3DBI1tO8
    Philip Glass – The Grid…. (replace xx with tt)

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