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Artists Chris Burden
Chris Burden Photo

Chris Burden

American Sculptor and Performance Artist

Movements and Styles: Performance Art, Conceptual Art

Born: April 11, 1946 - Boston, Massachusetts

Died: May 10, 2015 - Topanga, California

Chris Burden Timeline

Quotes

"It's about trying to frame something. And draw attention to it and say, 'Here's the beauty in this. I'm going to put a frame around it, and I think this is beautiful.' That's what artists do. It's really a pointing activity."
Chris Burden
"I never thought of my things as theater. They were like scientific experiments. There's no second time. The first time you do something only happens once."
Chris Burden
"I also set up those unexpected, dreaded situations as an attempt to control fate. Instead of letting things happen to me, I made them happen."
Chris Burden
"Early on, people were saying that I was doing performances impromptu, which is kind of insane actually. They were very thought out. Even though it seemed minimal, they were thought out very carefully. I spent a lot of time trying to hone them to a minimal standard in my head before I performed them."
Chris Burden

"I had an intuitive sense that being shot is as American as apple pie. We see people being shot on TV, we read about it in the newspaper. Everybody has wondered what it's like. So I did it."

Synopsis

Chris Burden has produced some of the most shocking works in the history of 20th century American art, including spending five days and nights in the fetal position inside a locker, having a spectator push pins into his body, being "crucified" to a Volkswagen Beetle, being kicked down two flights of stairs, and even having himself shot. The challenge for viewers is to try to understand such troubling and seemingly "inartistic" gestures. Such an understanding is made possible by seeing these works within the context of Conceptual art during the 1970s, where artists concerned themselves with art based on ideas and action rather than objects created for an elite art market. Additionally, the violent images of the war in Vietnam and the television media in general provided a background setting for Burden. His work further challenges viewers to take stock of their own moral compasses and widen their understanding of the ways in which it is possible for art to serve humanity.

Key Ideas

Chris Burden's seemingly outrageous performances were in fact authentically intentioned. His art explores the nature of suffering by setting up extreme situations that he, himself, has to endure. Theoretically, a viewer can interrupt the work at any point, but usually they do not; thus, his work challenges viewers themselves to act - both within the sphere of his art and within the larger context of humanity in general.
The artist wanted to portray the reality of pain to the audience at a time when people had become desensitized to the plethora of television images of injured and dead American soldiers in Vietnam and the general dominance of violence in media imagery.
Burden also questioned the role of art itself. Can art be more than something precious, elite, and distant? To what extent can the artist be the work of art and how far can the artist go in leading viewers to think and respond?

Biography

Chris Burden Photo

Childhood

Burden, the son of an engineer and a biologist, was born in Boston in 1946 and grew up in France and Italy. When he was 12, Burden was involved in a motorcycle accident in Italy that required his foot to be operated on without anesthesia. This traumatic event seemed to be the catalyst for his future works that focused on self-inflicted physical pain. Burden moved back to the states and finished high school in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Chris Burden Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Chris Burden
Interactive chart with Chris Burden's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Marcel DuchampMarcel Duchamp
Robert MorrisRobert Morris
Vito AcconciVito Acconci
Yoko OnoYoko Ono
Joseph BeuysJoseph Beuys

Personal Contacts

Robert IrwinRobert Irwin

Movements

DadaDada
MinimalismMinimalism

Influences on Artist
Chris Burden
Chris Burden
Years Worked: 1969 to Present
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Gina PaneGina Pane
Marina AbramovićMarina Abramović
Dennis OppenheimDennis Oppenheim
Carolee SchneemannCarolee Schneemann

Personal Contacts

Peter SchjeldahlPeter Schjeldahl

Movements

Conceptual ArtConceptual Art
Body ArtBody Art
Performance ArtPerformance Art
Installation ArtInstallation Art

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Tracy DiTolla

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Tracy DiTolla
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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