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Chris Burden

Three Ghost Ships

July 11–August 30, 1996
Beverly Hills

Installation view with Three Ghost Ships (1991) Artwork © Chris Burden/Licensed by The Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: © Douglas M. Parker Studio

Installation view with Three Ghost Ships (1991)

Artwork © Chris Burden/Licensed by The Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: © Douglas M. Parker Studio

About

Gagosian is pleased to present an exhibition by Chris Burden.

Burden’s Three Ghost Ships is a trio of actual sailboats fitted with solar panels, electronic gear, and global satellite hookups for unmanned navigation. The artist intended these seemingly innocent vessels to carry a small amount of tea as they sail in unison from Charleston, South Carolina, and appear miraculously in the harbor of Plymouth, England.

Burden carefully selected the sites: The Mayflower embarked from Plymouth, and Charleston is home to major US air, naval, and Polaris submarine bases. The artist also invokes the Boston Tea Party, as well as Christopher Columbus’s own triad of vessels. There is, however, a sinister underside. Could these three electronic pleasure crafts be used to anonymously transport dangerous cargo? Three Ghost Ships epitomizes Burden’s masterful fusion of real machinery and complex metaphor.

In the Gagosian installation, the computer within one of the Ghost Ships will be programmed to periodically unfurl the boat’s sail, pivot its rudder, and simulate the mechanisms of automatic navigation.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a selection of Burden’s Small Guns, elegant groupings of toy instruments of war and domination, including metal soldiers, plastic hand grenades, simulated bombs, and two pairs of Chinese foot-binding slippers.