The New Museum’s façade is due for a makeover. On August 31st, the museum will take down Isa Genzken’s “Rose II”; that sculpture will be replaced, come October 2nd, with two large-scale works by Chris Burden, “Ghost Ship,” a remotely controlled ship, and “Two Small Skyscrapers,” which call to mind the twin towers. The sculptures will be unveiled in conjunction with “Chris Burden: Extreme Measures”, the museum’s major fall exhibition, and, as part of the museum’s Façade Sculpture Program, they will remain up for one year. These “two iconic works on the exterior of the Museum, […] will alter the visual landscape of Lower Manhattan.” While calling the works “iconic” before the public has even seen them is a little premature, they at least sound haunting.
One of Burden’s “Ghost Ships,” a 30-foot vessel originally designed to sail 400 unmanned miles controlled by a remote computer, will hang outside the museum. Especially given that Burden is concerned with, as the press release says, “the destructive potential latent in engineering pursuits,” I can’t help but think of drones. It’s unlikely, however, that this connection is entirely deliberate, given that, while drones existed in 2005 when the piece was made, they didn’t become a major subject until Obama’s presidency. Nonetheless, even without the political context, there’s something evocative about a manless voyage that goes nowhere
The other external sculpture, “Two Small Skyscrapers (Quasi Legal Skyscrapers),” will rise 36 feet above the museum’s roof. When the piece was originally conceived in 2003, it was just one small skyscraper, which Burden absurdly described to LA Weekly as such:
“I wanted to build a little skyscraper that a couple guys with a donkey could put up, and when the neighbor calls the building inspector, the guys can take it down again and build it somewhere else […] then the neighbors might call back up again and say, ‘Hey, wait, now it’s up on the hill.'”
Now, with the addition of the second tower, it recalls 9/11.
While Burden’s facade sculptures may have the advantages of nostalgia, halloween-appropriateness, and quantity, in my opinion, all still pale in comparison to “Hell Yes.”