Three Ghost Ships, 1991
Sailboats, one with solar panel and electronic components
3 boats: 6-1/2 x 6-1/2 x 15-1/2 feet each sailboat hull
Installation at Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills
Photo © Douglas M. Parker Studio
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Opening Reception for the Artist, Thursday, July 11, 1996 6:00-8:00pm
Chris Burden's Three Ghost Ships is a trio of actual sailboats, fitted with solar panels, electronic gear, and global satellite hookup for unmanned navigation. The artist intended these seemingly innocent vessels to carry a small amount of tea, 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 United States 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 transport dangerous cargo anonymously? Three Ghost Ships epitomizes Chris Burden's masterful fusion of real machinery and complex metaphor.
In the Gagosian Gallery installation, the computer within one of the Ghost Ships will be programmed periodically to unfurl its 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.
A retrospective exhibition of Chris Burden's work can be seen at the MAK-Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna, until August 4, 1996.
For more information, please contact the gallery at (310) 271-9400.