All the Submarines of the United States of America


Chris Burden ( American, 1946 - 2015 )

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General Description

Chris Burden's gallery-sized installation consists of 625 identical cardboard models that represent the entire United States submarine fleet dating from the late 1890s, when submarines entered the navy's arsenal, to the late 1980s. The wall behind them lists the names of each submarine in black sans-serif type. Burden designed this installation as an amalgam of elements rather than as a discrete project: he suspended the cardboard models from the ceiling, placing them at various heights so that as a group they appear, quite aptly, to be a school of fish swimming through the ocean of the gallery space.

This piece neither celebrates nor condemns military might, but presents in physical form the full range and history of an essential component of the United States's power that, when this work was created, was still pitched in cold war struggle with the Soviet Union. Burden's work elicits questions and thoughts about security, politics, warfare, and history that become all the more resonant by his refusal of any easy polemical stance.

Adapted from

Charles Wylie, "All the Submarines in the United States of America," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Suzanne Kotz (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1997), 297.

Fun Facts

All the Submarines of the United States of America was the second work of installation art, after Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing #398 commissioned in 1985, acquired by the Dallas Museum of Art.