More than a lucky shot
June 8, 2008 7:45 PM   Subscribe

"In the early 1970s, the artist Chris Burden pioneered a kind of sculpture that explored boundaries few people would care even to approach." The artist has had himself (in two of many examples...) nearly electrocuted and shot; some of his later and lighter work includes building complex model bridges and reconstructing a "Speed of Light Machine". He created a ghost ship, uninhabited and self navigated, and continues to surprise with his latest work....

The recording of "Shoot" is about a third of the way in the video in the first link. Click on "images" on the site linked to by built in the post for a scrolling photo set; "catalogue" provides an interview with the artist.
Here is a recent review of his work.

I'd like to thank crazylegs of MetaFilter for reminding me of this artist's name.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth (23 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Ahhh...I remember watching videos of Burden's performances back in art school. Pretty challenging shit to watch for a working-class kid from the midwest.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:01 PM on June 8, 2008

Here's a nice photo set of his recent work, Urban Light, which I have the pleasure of walking past every day -- it's probably my favorite thing about the whole "Transformation" phase at LACMA. (*grumble*Don't get me started on BCAM*grumble*)
posted by scody at 8:11 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Rock music geeks already know of this guy : David Bowie's song Joe the Lion is based on Chris Burden and his work.
posted by suckerpunch at 8:16 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Re: Chris Burden, guns and art. In 2004, Chris Burden abruptly resigned from his UCLA faculty position when a student used a gun -- perhaps a toy or replica -- in a performance piece on the UCLA campus. Burden wanted the university to punish the student for violating safety rules. I guess it's 'irony' when you push the boundaries but it's a 'safety violation' when someone else does it.
posted by grounded at 8:23 PM on June 8, 2008 [4 favorites]

Reminds me of Paul McCarthy.
posted by Balisong at 8:27 PM on June 8, 2008

The Ghost Ship is worth looking at. There's something oddly affecting and a little bit unnerving about seeing an empty ship move over the water.
posted by argybarg at 9:19 PM on June 8, 2008

Also cf., Laurie Anderson's 1976 song about Burden, "It's Not The Bullet That Kills You (It's The Hole)"
posted by mykescipark at 9:49 PM on June 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

Here in the Rainier Valley in South Seattle where I live various artists periodically recreate Burden's "Shoot" art piece. Many choose to push the artistic envelope with the use of the 9mm parabellum round instead of Burden's puny .22. Spent cartridges left at the site act as the artist's signature. Authentication of performance pieces is difficult, and often involves microscopic examination of tool marks left on the cartridge cases by the extractor and firing pin. Critical write-ups of the performance pieces are well publicized though, often on the front page of the Seattle Times. Unlike "First Thursday" art walks, these performances are usually held on Friday or Saturday night. Employees of Harborview ER have been persistent critics of the artistic value of this unique "street theater".
posted by Tube at 10:58 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Urban Light is fantastic!

I guess it's 'irony' when you push the boundaries but it's a 'safety violation' when someone else does it.

When you surprise a classroom full of people by pointing what appears to be a loaded gun at your head, how is that not a safety violation? the course of a performance for a class taught by visiting instructor Ron Athey, a graduate student entered a classroom at UCLA’s Warner building where roughly thirty other students were gathered. The student, wearing a coat and tie, produced either a gun or a convincing replica of one, put what looked like a bullet into the weapon, spun the cylinder, and held it to his head, Russian-roulette style. He pulled the trigger, but the gun did not fire. The student then left the room; while he was out of view, a shot was heard, at which point he returned, now apparently unarmed. A short discussion ensued between what the witness described as the “freaked-out” performer and a room full of people who were “a little frozen and a little scared,” and then the class broke up for the day.
Keep in mind that Burden's piece took place in a gallery, not a school, and at least one other person was fully aware of his intentions. Also, I don't think he intended any irony. When it's reenacted by smirking jocks, maybe that's irony.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:10 PM on June 8, 2008

Also: heh.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:11 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

His work is so ... contemporary.
posted by sour cream at 11:20 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Man, the stories about this guy are so profuse and legendary that you can never tell which ones are bullshit. He's truly a freak. There was the piece where he supposedly wrapped himself in a carpet and had some friends toss him on the LA freeway. I have no idea if that happened or not. Also, supposedly he invited a bunch of people out by an airport, then pulled out a pistol and shot at passing planes. Again, no idea if that happened.

I remember when he moved into the front window in the New Museum in downtown Manhattan. I used to go out of my way to walk down there drunk at 4 am to watch him sleep. So damn weird.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:40 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Excellent trolling work; to be commended.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:59 PM on June 8, 2008

The first time I ever heard of Chris Burden was on a public television program. It might have actually been a LA Unified School District video. Anyway, it was a piece called "Samson". Museum-goers would enter a room through a turnstile. The turnstile was attached to a huge jack that was pushing apart the whole room. Apparently if enough people went to see it the room would have been destroyed. I never heard anything else about it. In fact, I've heard a lot of people talk about this guy and no one mentions this piece. He must be very prolific.
posted by redteam at 1:06 AM on June 9, 2008

There was the piece where he supposedly wrapped himself in a carpet and had some friends toss him on the LA freeway. I have no idea if that happened or not.

Yes. That was real. He also attempted to breathe water. That's an especially hard video to watch.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:07 AM on June 9, 2008

Rolled in a carpet and tossed on the freeway? Burden never did that. (I compiled the timeline for MOCA's Out of Actions performance art survey, and am familiar with all of his endurance / threat performances.) Maybe you folks are thinking of the piece which had the artist under a tarp on La Cienega's gallery row, with traffic flares surrounding him. As risky as some of these performances were, they were not suicide attempts.

From Burden's description of "Deadman" (November 12, 1972): "At 8 p.m. I lay down on La Cienega Boulevard and was covered completely with a canvas tarpaulin. Two 15-minute flares were placed near me to alert cars. Just before the flares extinguished, a police car arrived. I was arrested for causing a false emergency to be reported...".
posted by Scram at 4:39 AM on June 9, 2008

When I saw the still from "Un Chien Andalou" in the banner, I knew I was in for trouble. No thanks. Eyeball sliced...artist shot...I think I'll wait until after lunch
posted by hwestiii at 5:44 AM on June 9, 2008

"Through the night, softly," the video of him writhing on the floor through shards of broken glass, was shown repeatedly on late night TV in commercial format with purchased air time.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:03 AM on June 9, 2008

Burden is a fascinating artist. I was always really into that piece where he shot a handgun at a jet airliner for some reason. I was also impressed that Andy Warhol bought the gun used. He seemed to me to be a real genuine artist, not just some in your face dude trying to shock people to further his name/career.
posted by JBennett at 7:57 AM on June 9, 2008

There's a fine line between Chris Burden and Johnny Knoxville.
posted by Robin Kestrel at 8:45 AM on June 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I still have nightmares from watching that breathing water piece in a HS English class. Our teacher also showed us the broken glass piece.

I can't get past the shock and horror to figure what he's after.
posted by QIbHom at 12:39 PM on June 9, 2008

I'll bet getting shot like that hurts like a motherfucker.
posted by Tim McDonough at 5:31 PM on June 9, 2008

« Older My advice to the graduates: Plastics.   |   Buzz reloaded Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments