Chris Burden: Extreme Measures: "The Big Wheel"

New Museum
Dec 4, 2013 11:39PM

The Big Wheel consists of an eight-foot-diameter, six-thousand-pound (three-ton), cast-iron flywheel mounted in a vertical position on a wooden support structure of six-by-six-inch timbers. The axle of the large wheel is supported by two low-friction bearings. A motorcycle is positioned so that it can be rocked backwards, making firm contact between the rear tire and the iron wheel. The motorcycle is then “driven” through its gears until its maximum speed is reached. The motorcycle is then pulled away, leaving the large wheel spinning silently at about two hundred RPM. Because of the enormous amount of kinetic energy stored in the wheel, it continues to spin for about 2.5 hours before coming to a rest.

—Chris Burden, 1979

Photo: Benoit Pailley

New Museum