How much does your car weigh?

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The late artist Chris Burden balanced a Porsche 914 with a meteorite.

Buckminster Fuller famously asked “How much does your house weigh?” It is a question we should ask about everything we own, since every pound of material we consume requires energy and resources to make. With cars, it means more fuel to move it, more exhaust emitted. That’s one of the reasons I was so intrigued by this installation in an exhibition of Chris Burden’s work, Measured, at the Gagosian Gallery in London. It really gives you a sense of how much a car weighs.

Early in his career, the late Chris Burden “challenged his own mental and physical limitations” with performance art, including nailing through the palms of his hands to the roof of his Volkswagen to “reflect the violence that defined American politics, society, and media.” These later pieces are not so painful.

© CHRIS BURDEN Porsche with Meteorite, 2013 Restored 1974 Porsche 914, 390 pound meteorite, steel structure/ Gagosian

Like a giant seesaw, a yellow Porsche and a nickel-iron meteorite hang from either end of a steel beam. The fulcrum, placed off-center, distributes the weight so that both objects are raised from the floor. The Porsche, at 993.4 kilograms (2,190 lbs.), weighs down the short end of the beam, and the meteorite, at 176.9 kilograms (390 lbs.), counterbalances it on the long end. Porsche with Meteorite thus draws attention to the relativity of size, weight, and value, juxtaposing refined German manufacture with an extraterrestrial metal chunk.

Porsche detail© © 2018 Chris Burden / licensed by The Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Courtesy Gagosian

It is also an interesting choice of car, designed by Porsche but built by Volkswagen, a light, affordable sports car with a 1.7 liter engine. I drove one for years, and it certainly isn’t a model of wretched excess in weight or size. But it is still over a ton of steel, a lot of material to move two people. More (and a Restored 1964 F350 Ford crane truck with 1 ton cast iron weight) at Gagosian.

Restored 1964 F350 Ford crane truck with 1 ton cast iron weight© Chris Burden / licensed by The Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo: Erich Koyama Courtesy Gagosian

The late artist Chris Burden balanced a Porsche 914 with a meteorite.

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