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Focus on Chris Burden

Let’s take a look back at Chris Burden’s career

The artist of the extreme who became famous through happenings & performances, died on May 10th, 2015 in California. Thanks to Studio M, discover or rediscover his most recognized work.

5 Day Locker & Shoot – Incorporating double bind in an artistic performance

In 1971, the young Burden who was still a student at the University of California, decide to perform an artistic happening: "being shot" by a classmate. Burden ended up with a bullet in his arm. It wasn’t the first time that the young artist had tried such a dangerous artistic performance. For his master thesis, Burden remained trapped for 5 days in a locker. These borderline performances brought out much indignation among spectators, but the young artist graduated with pride and glory..

These new kind of happenings put the viewer in an uncomfortable position. The witness of those performances is facing a real dilemma. Indeed, from a moral point of view, viewers are subjected to two opposite injunctions: to assist a person in danger (gunshot wounds or locked up in a locker) or repsect the artist at work and his masterpiece. This “double binding” encloses the viewer in a difficult situation.

This process of creating art over the pain induced by its art may be going back to his childhood. At 12, the young Christopher is injured in a motocross accident and to go through an operation on the spot. The procedure was done without anesthesia. While recuperating, the young man discovered an interest in art and photography.

chris-burden-trans-fixed1

Doorway to heaven, TV Hijack & Trans-Fixed - Pushing the limits again and again

In 1972, Burden was invited to a TV studio to talk about his artistic performances. He show up with his own crew to film the event, then threatened the host with a knife and made her hostage. The artist then destroyed the tapes of the show and only kept those captured by his team. This action showed the power of a single individual on a mass medium like television.
From 1973 to 1974, the artist continued to create artistic happenings through self-harm. During this period Burden will be burned with two electric cables (Doorway to Heaven) and crucified on a Volkswagen (Trans-fixed).

These particularly violent happenings are intended to demystify everyday objects (electricity and cars) sacralized through advertising.

After 1975, the artist abandoned masochistic performances and moved on to more risky behaviour through
sculpture.

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Sources: Inrocks, L’Obs, Wikipedia.