(L.A.P.D. Uniform) By Chris Burden

25.02.21  |  Article by Chris Burden  |  Art, culture, interview, Issues, Magazine  |  MM18 Click to buy

L.A.P.D. Uniform is an edition of 30 oversized police uniforms, created in collaboration with the Fabric Workshop, in Philadelphia, during Chris Burden’s 1992-1993 residency. The seven-foot-tall uniforms are equipped with badges, belts, batons, handcuffs, bullets and 92F Beretta handguns. The uniforms replicate the official uniform of the Los Angeles Police Department. Viewed from a distance, the uniforms appear to be normal size, close up; they assume larger-than-life proportions.


Photography by Will Brown

L.A.P.D. Uniform (1993)

Edition of 30 with 1 A.P. Wool serge, metal, leather, wood, plastic;

Each uniform: 88 x 72 x 6 inches

On L.A.P.D. Uniform

CHRIS BURDEN: They were done in conjunction with the Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia. Kippy Stroud had asked me to come up with an idea to do something…And they do all kinds of projects with artists. So she approached me and said, you know, I’d like you to do something with fabric. Can you think of a project you could do with fabric? An edition piece or something.
I thought, fabric, that’s kind of tough.

And it was really close to the riots, the Rodney King riots. And the idea of the police uniform became a big symbol and, you know, a sort of passing fantasy. But if you wanted to be disruptive, what you do is you just have hundreds of police uniforms, or thousands, and really just airdrop them all over South Central LA. Now we’ve got a real problem. Now we have a bunch of disenfranchised people that are pissed as hell wearing police uniforms. It was just a subversive thought.

And then I thought, that’s it, that’s what the Fabric Workshop should do. Because I’ve always sort of been intimidated by policemen, and I wanted to have them be 10 percent bigger, so that when they were displayed on the wall like the paper cutout dolls, that you would look at them and not realize they were bigger than they should be, that you would just see them as, Holy cow, cops are huge, kind of thing. And so we worked with the Fabric Workshop, I don’t know, for a year, year-and-a-half, two years, and we actually hired the companies that make official police uniforms to make our police uniforms. And the label says Conqueror. That’s the label, Conqueror.

But it was very tricky because we wanted to hang flat on the wall and look good and look impressive. Well, it meant they had no butts. And… we had the badge made 10 percent bigger. We didn’t have the gun or any of that equipment made bigger. It was just too — it was too prohibitive. 

That was an experience. I went to a gun shop, bought 30 Berettas and no questions asked… You had to pass a handgun law and you have to wait your 10 days or whatever it is, but there’s no limit on how many you can buy.

Photography by Benoit Pailley

“But I ended up buying 30 Berettas, which I modified so they couldn’t fire.”

And then, the best part was when I went to take them back to the same gun store and I said, And I want them all to be rendered inoperable. And they said, Permanently? I said, Yes. And they said, We could do it so we could reverse it. You don’t want to ruin these beautiful guns, do you? And I said, Yes, I do. So that was a really weird thing, to take the same guns back and have 30 of them totally disabled so they can’t shoot. They were welded, and when you weld them the metal gets crystallized. I mean, you just can’t turn the process around.

NYPD documentation