CHRIS BURDEN EXTREME RACING
In-game performance (Forza Motorsport 5, 2013), 29.4 minutes.
May 18, 2014
CHRIS BURDEN EXTREME RACING is an in-game performance by COLL.EO.
Specifically, we replayed Chris Burden’s experience of driving through Long Beach, California (note 1) via Forza Motorsport 5 (2013), a popular racing game developed by Turn 10 for the Xbox One.
In 2011, Burden told filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman that he drives his BMW at an average velocity of 23.4 miles per hour through LA (note 2). We recreated the thrills and the excitement induced by speeding through the Los Angeles County's freeways and roads at the burdensome speed of 23.4 miles per hour, performing as Chris Burden’s avatar. We drove a white BM1 M1 coupe for 29.4 minutes without ever shifting into second gear.
That duration - 29.4 minutes - corresponds to the average commute time for L.A. county residents, including Burden, whose studio is located in the Topanga Canyon (note 3).
Like Burden's monumental installation Metropolis II (2011), videogames such as Forza Motorsport 5 appear utopian, both in their design and embedded logic. However, appearances are deceiving. Videogames are inherently fraudulent. Within Forza Motorsport 5, the city of Los Angeles - as well as every other urban environments - has no slums, no zones of demarcation based on class and status, no pollution, and, above all, no traffic.
Racing games are set in pedestrian-free cities. They deliberately remove marginalized, disenfranchised citizens whose lack of representation or, rather simulation, contributes to their increasing invisibility from what remains of the "public sphere". Thus, racing games promote segregation, alienation, and atomization. Beyond their hyper-realistic aesthetics, they function as mere interactive commercials glorifying car manufactures, global brands and corporations, status and wealth.
In short, racing games are a travesty: they erase "race" from the game and reduce "class" to a particular category of vehicles. In the United States, to be is to drive. Without a driver's license, a human being is not granted existence, as Mark Tabbi convincingly reminds us inThe Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap (2014) (see glosses). And yet, one does not need a driver's license to speed at 200 miles per hours through the streets of a digital L.A.
Like CARJACKED (2012), CHRIS BURDEN EXTREME RACING highlights how gaming faithfully reproduces normative blindspots and assumptions about race and class in America.
San Francisco, May 18, 2014
United States Census Bureau, Out-of-State and Long Commutes: 2011, March 5, 2013.
Taibbi, Mark, The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, New York, Spiegel & Grau, 2014.
1. The Long Beach circuit was introduced as an extra downloadable content for Forza Motorsport 5 in April 2014.
2. The quote comes from METROPOLIS II (A Movie), a short documentary directed in 2011 by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman about Chris Burden's METROPOLIS II (2011), currently on view at the Los Angeles Museum of Art (LACMA). Discussing his kinetic installation comprising approximately 100,000 miniature cars running at high speed on a dense networks of buildings of a futuristic city, Burden said:
Great. I love hearing that the cars are going 200 to 300 miles an hour, That makes me very hopeful for the future (chuckles), That’s about the speed they should be running, not 23.4 miles an hour which is what my BMW says I average driving around LA. What’s really stressful is that stop and go, low-speed, high-speed … that is highly stressful. It’s different than cruising along on an open road at a constant speed. it’s about to be over, the days where a car runs free. Those days are about to be closed….something else is about to arrive (Chris Burden)
3. The data was released by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2013.
CHRIS BURDEN EXTREME RACING is COLL.EO’s first performance developed with Microsoft’s new console, the Xbox One. Previous projects, including CARJACKED (2012), were based on Xbox 360's games.
On COLL.EO's website, visitors can see three excerpts of the performance, including highlights and a montage of scenes from the East Route track of Long Beach.