P3 resident David Sanchez Burr speeds up the Vegas life cycle

David Sanchez Burr’s residency at P3.
Photo: Steve Marcus
Dawn-Michelle Baude

Four stars

David Sanchez Burr's New Citadel Through September 15, Wednesday-Sunday, 6-11 p.m. Cosmopolitan’s P3Studio, 698-7000.

David Sanchez Burr deliberately wrecks his art and invites others to do the same. For Burr, destruction is an aesthetic, a technique, an ethical position—and key to transformation. To hammer his point, Burr installed New Citadel at P3Studio inside the Cosmopolitan. Combining acoustics and architecture, urban planning and performance, New Citadel welcomes visitors to engage in the life cycle of a model city, from R&D through post-mortem documentation.

New Citadel at P3 Studio

Collaborative, unpredictable and random, New Citadel is a mini, sped-up version of Las Vegas, complete with the jangling verve of spectacular excess and the engulfing regret of crippling decay. What takes years, or even decades, to occur in the Valley happens in minutes in the P3 manufacturing sequence. Entire “buildings” are constructed via glue gun and a few site-specific materials—locally grown gypsum crystals, tiny mirrors, neon casings. Next, the buildings find footprints on urban development podiums where the constant pummeling of runaway development brings the “Citadel” down, literally.

Punching irresistible buttons on unmarked soundboards, visitors trigger audio tracks recorded and/or performed by Burr. Some of the 128 tracks are purely instrumental; others feature vocals based on artist manifestos and gems of cultural theory. The sound vibrates the podiums via their woofer substrate, shaking the buildings until they slide off and break on the studio floor. The jittery effects of frequency on matter are recorded in macro videos. At the residency’s end, Burr will collect, catalog and file the fragments in hanging archive boxes reminiscent of Joseph Cornell.

As process-based art, New Citadel is rich with intent and metaphor. The creation/destruction loop looms large, and with good reason: the second law of thermodynamics—roughly “everything decays”—is as true of the human body as it is of human constructs. Every passing tour bus vibrates the emerald green glass on the MGM Grand, every rainfall erodes the patina of Red Rock and every curious visitor to P3, pushing a button, delivers an acoustic wallop to the miniature city.

Connect the natural decay of matter with our species’ inclination for annihilation, and the benign “Citadel” reads like a doomsday scenario. Burr’s critique of consumer culture is as stoic as it is fatalistic. Like the hordes that applauded the implosion of the Stardust, the artist finds beauty in destruction. The videos capture the intimate frisson of demise; the archive boxes give new life to the broken bits. Faced with the inevitable end, opting for transformation is surely wise.

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