The Mexican Bridge
”For years I studied an etching of a bridge in a book on early Mexican railroads. Although this bridge was never built the proposed bridge was a beautiful cast iron structure that was to span a very deep gorge. I fantasized that I might be able to model this bridge using Erector and Meccano parts (toy metal construction parts). I thought it would be wise to warm my fingers and familiarize myself with the metal construction parts by building a small bridge that could simply hold my own weight. I built the 1/4 Ton Bridge, which weighs 5 pounds and is able to support 500 pounds. It was only after completing this small bridge I was able to commence the massive undertaking of building The Mexican Bridge.”
Chris Burden and I established a relationship in 1989, when Magasin III acquired his B-Car from a New York gallery. It took another ten years or so of contact back and forth, including a visit to his studio outside of Los Angeles, before he at last discussed his fascination with Meccano and presented his ideas for bridges. But that’s how it often is with Chris. His complex projects take a long, long time.
When Chris was at Magasin III to get to know the space, he said something I’ll never forget, and he wasn’t kidding. When he saw our characteristic pillars for the first time, he said: ”Hmm, wonder how many of those you could take away before the building collapses?” He was toying with a similar idea as in his work Samson, which is inspired in part by the idea that an enormously successful exhibition can crush the institution through a mechanical system. I told him: ”Don’t even think about it!”
The bridges were shipped by boat from his studio in California. It was a brutal winter that year, so when the containers arrived in January and we first opened them there was frost in the crates. The crates were gigantic and had to be craned up to our balcony. Hell Gate was so large that it fit through the doorway with only one and a half centimeters to spare. Chris thought this was incredibly fun.
We acquired two of the four bridges that Chris produced for the 1999 exhibition: The Mexican Bridge and 1/4 Ton Bridge. I still think it was a big mistake that we didn’t also acquire Hell Gate. It wasn’t insanely more expensive, actually, but I realized that it would be incredibly difficult to transport and take care of. It had taken a helicopter to get Hell Gate out of his studio when it was finished.
David Neuman, July 2014