Past Exhibitions

Chris Burden: A Tale of Two Cities

Exhibition Through June 10, 2007

Taken from the permanent collection of the Orange County Museum of Art, Chris Burden’s A Tale of Two Cities (1981) was inspired by the artist’s fascination with war toys, bullets, model buildings, antique soldiers, and a fantasy about the twenty-fifth century—a time when he imagines the world will have returned to a system of feudal states. The miniature reconstruction of two such city-states, poised for war, incorporates 5,000 war toys from the United States, Japan, and Europe—on a 1,100 square foot sand base surrounded by a “jungle” made of houseplants. The viewer is only able to comprehend its details by looking through binoculars, becoming part of Burden's installation. A Tale of Two Cities is at once an elaborate children's game and a sophisticated commentary on the absurdity of war. As society moves from the era of the Cold War to a time dominated by ongoing battles between neighboring nations, A Tale of Two Cities becomes uncannily prophetic.

Image Credits:

Chris Burden, A Tale of Two Cities (installation view) 1981; mixed media; collection of the Orange County Museum of Art; Museum purchase with funds provided through prior gift of Ben C. Deane. Photo: 2001 Christopher Bliss.