Burden emerged as a performance artist in 1971, using his own body as the material for works. From self-crucifixion to near-death by water dunk, Burden’s art is ritualistic and always extreme. Here are seven times he proved it.
Five Day Locker Piece, 1971 Did your thesis require five days spent stuffed in an art school locker with only five gallons of water? Probably not. He better have gotten an A.
Trans-fixed, 1974 Nailed to a Volkswagen Beetle like a Christian martyr, Burden rolled out of a Los Angeles garage, revved the engine for two minutes and rolled back in. Self-given stigmata are now the signs of a bad-ass.
Velvet Water, 1974 “Burden relentlessly dunked his head in a filled-up sink, trying to inhale the oxygen-rich water. We sat stupefied, paralyzed, until he seemed to pass out, and the monitor went dark, and that was it.” – Jerry Saltz, 2013. Oh.
Doomed, 1975 Burden lay in complete stillness under a sheet of tilted glass for 45 hours on the floor of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Only when a museum employee, fearing his harm, set a pitcher of water next to him did he smash a ticking clock and end the performance.
His reaction: “I thought, ‘My God, are they going to leave me here to die?’”
Beam Drop, 2008 (original performance 1984) Sixty I-beams dropped into a trench of wet concrete will definitely make an impact. Dangerous and visceral, this Burden artwork evokes bodily pain in the scraping sound of steel against steel and the splash of unset cement.
The Flying Steamroller, 1996 A typical day in Burden’s art may include flying through the air on a counterbalanced steamroller. Art, machine and human transcend all those physical limitations that come with standing on the ground.
For more extreme measures by Chris Burden, click here: https://www.theartstory.org/artist/burden-chris/