Tentatively, Convenience's Reviews > Chris Burden

Chris Burden by Chris Burden
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it was amazing
bookshelves: art

It seems slightly strange to me now that the 1st time I can remember encountering Chris Burden was way back in November of 1975 when he presented his "Working Artist" piece at U.M.B.C.. At the time, there was the usual sensationalized (& anti-intellectual) flak about him in the press - calling him the "Death Artist" b/c he'd gotten well-known for performances where he'd endangered or hurt himself. I don't recall how much I knew about him at the time. I do recall attending a lecture he gave at U.M.B.C. where he likened himself, & perhaps others exploring body art & the like, to being a scientist, a cutting edge scientist - perhaps a nuclear physicist. Someone in the audience asked him about his relationship to Marcel Duchamp. I think he denied that there was much of one. In conversation w/ Burden afterward, I asked him again about Marcel Duchamp. Hey!, I was only freshly turned 22 & Duchamp was one of my only reference points for conceptual art. My reiteration of mentioning Duchamp was probably irritating for Burden in the same way that calling me a "dadaist" irritates me - I mean, wake up people!, get a little better educated, ok?!

Anyway, I appreciated that Burden's "Working Artist" was so unsensational. While the newspapers were criticizing him for being the "Death Artist" it was pretty obvious that they hoped he'd do something destructive & sensational so that they cd 'report' about - selling their papers at the same time that they claimed moral outrage. Burden, however, was clever enuf to completely frustrate their cliché expectations. He wasn't a one-trick pony. This bk, published in 2007, is a great document & a fairly thorough overview showing just how varied & consistently thoughtful his work is. It also shows how amazingly widespread Burden's presence has been in the world from a pretty young age. His work has been presented in many, many places.

Back to personal recollection: Burden presented a piece at the WPA (Washington Project for the Arts) on March 27, 1982 called "Hercules". "Over 30 large objects: doors, window panes, metal ladders, and a hand truck, were suspended parallel to the floor in a large theater space which had been painted black. Several small votive candles were placed along the perimeter of each object and lit. During the two hours of the performance/installation I would continuously circulate throughout the room pushing the platforms so that all continued to move and swing in erratic patterns." Alas, I mised this performance.

However, people I knew attended & hung out w/ Burden at a Baltimore bar later. Many of these folks were performance artists - quite good ones - but w/o the notoriety that Burden had. This was one of my many tastes of why I hated the art world. These people were schmoozing w/ Burden b/c he seemed like a good art world connection.. but they HATED his work. I, on the other hand, had a great respect for Burden but wdn't approach him at the bar b/c I was so disgusted by the opportunistic hypocrisy of the schmoozers.

One of the quotes attributed to Burden that's always stuck w/ me is something to the effect that he makes his fantasies real. Given that his fantasies don't seem to be harmful to others, I'm all for that - it takes a strong-willed personality. & Burden has that in spades.

& the work, so amply represented in this bk! Personal favorites? "White Light/White Heat" - living unseen on a platform in a gallery for 22 days; "Full Financial Disclosure"; "Samson" - having a turnstile in an art gallery gradually put pressure on walls; "Tyne Bridge" - one of the many bridges he's made from toy materials; "Medusa's Head"; "Five Day Locker Piece", "Deadman" - "At 8PM I lay down on La Cienaga Boulevard and was covered completely with a canvas tarpaulin. Two 15-minutes flares were placed near me to alert cars. Just before the flares extinguished, a police car arrived. I was arrested and booked for causing a false emergency to be reported. The trial took place in Beverly Hills. After three days of deliberation, the jury failed to reach a decision and the judge dismissed the case."

This has particular resonance for me. That was done in 1972. Around the same time, sometime between 1971 & 1974, I conceived of my 1st film. The idea? To roll back & forth across the Baltimore Beltway near my mom's house shooting a super-8 film of the cars careening out of my way (or not). This was one fantasy I certainly WASN'T going to realize.

Back to favorite Burden pieces: "B-Car" - a 200 lb car designed & built by Burden; "Coals to Newcastle" - flying pot on the wings of a model airplane from CA to Mexico; "Oh, Dracula"; "The Other Vietnam Memorial" - where the 3,000,000 Vietnamese killed in the Vietnam War are listed; "The Flying Steamroller"; "Ghost Ship"; "In Venice Money Grows on Trees"; "Pizza City".. THERE'S SO MUCH!

&, fortunately, there are certainly some intelligent essays here. None of that "Death Artist" shit. I particularly like Kristine Stiles' "Burden of Light" & Robert Storr's "Immanent Domain". Stiles analyzes Burden's use of light, Storr, the 'maleness' of the work. Both do an excellent job. It all makes we want to study Burden's work even more than I already have - to pick up all the other Burden bks. Inspired, obsessive, well-crafted.
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Reading Progress

October 19, 2008 – Shelved
Started Reading
November 10, 2008 – Shelved as: art
November 10, 2008 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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Tosh Chris Burden is great. I love his work.

message 2: by Kartoffelsalat (new)

Kartoffelsalat I cannot make out yet how much you enjoy intellectualizing, with all those expressions you use as if you got carried away, a bit contradictory when you've already gone so far into your own development.
I have not seen so many reviews so far as to affirm that you read too much, but I'll carry on researching.
is it really "THERE'S SO MUCH"? how many other contemporary artists alike could you name that also have such a decent staff?
I'm asking this as a favour so as to broaden a bit my current references.

An spanish admirer of yours, embarrasingly young (if that exists). sorry for my english
(I don't know if this is a suitable place to say this, but, I've been lately considering buying one of your books but considering my purchasing power I might just buy one, so should it be footnotes?)

Tentatively, Convenience Hi Kartoffelsalat! Thanks for commenting. You got me to reread my review & correct some of its typos. I DO enjoy intellectualizing - but not at the expense of NOT-intellectualizing.

As for my having gotten "carried away" being "a bit contradictory when you've already gone so far into [my:] own development"? I'm not sure what you mean by that. Do you mean that b/c I have my own huge body of well-developed work you'd expect me to not appreciate someone else's? To the contrary, after having dedicated my life to highly abstruse explorations & developments of cultural approaches that I feel deeply involved in I'm profoundly glad to be able to praise someone else who I feel is doing the same W/O BEING BULLSHIT.

I've read between 3,000 & 4,000 books &, of course, many, MANY magazines, etc.. If you want to see more reviews of mine, you might be able to access them here:


or you can go to my GoodReads profile page here:


&, perhaps, just read the substantial:

"Recommended Reading" & "As I was Saying, "The Making of Americans" y'know?" in my "writing" section.

Please try to ignore the ads that GoodReads presumably sustains itself w/ but that inappropriately pepper my writing there.

As for 'other contemporary artists that I could name that have such decent stuff'? WELL, I'm not so interested in their being "artists", but I do recommend: Genesis P. Orridge, Vito Acconci, Valie Export, & Monty Cantsin, at least.


"footnotes" is probably the best of the 2 books of mine that you might be able to find on the internet for summarizing my 'work'/play - but "Not Necessarily NOT Very Important" comes with a CD. Yeah, "footnotes" is probably the best. Thank you for buying it, if you do. Alas, the thoroughly inept publisher will take all the profit & I'll never get any royalties - but, still, at least they published the damned thing.

Thanks again for commenting!

message 4: by Kartoffelsalat (last edited Jun 07, 2010 06:50AM) (new)

Kartoffelsalat why don't you have it scanned and send it to me? as payment I promise to get and ship you the next six objects from barcelona in a box:

1. one used condom that usually can be found at university campus where at night transvestites hang around.
2.a piece of cloth which I cut with a pair scissors from an important politician of barcelona.
3.vomit of mine after ingested nearly all the leaves of a bush when I was so angry at myself for having let an important opportunity passed me by due to my cowardice .*1
4.a tape with recordings of myself when cuming and it's prior or subsequent burst of feral vocal absurdities such "she went in the woods to fuck my calf" mixed with subconscious lsd ignominia being thrashed, all of them (at least the following month day by day) pasted together*2
5.a cap
6.a photo of the guy and his friends kind of spanish-gangster-rapper crew before I just ran towards one and snatch his cap and run away.

let's introduce a seventh object if I cannot get myself to do the politician suit disaster thing due to my refined and overdevelopped sense of smell.
7. a key of my laptop's keyboar that has : and .

would you get royalties for "Not Necessarily NOT Very Important"?
Some of my comments don't really mean anything but extreme selfishness, a negation of empathy, so to speak, as if a direct slap on the face saying "why aren't you me?"

*1the detailed description of the very lost opportunity inside of the sealed vomit-tin on a plastified paper
*2a tape recommended to be listen to when one goes to sleep on a average day

pd. sorry if I went too far on my attempt to describe the things I utter when cuming, mastering english still a complicated pursuit

Tentatively, Convenience As for scanning anything & sending it to you, it won't happen. It's funny how often people expect free stuff from me that takes a lot of work on my part - in exchange for something that that recipient will supposedly send to me but never actually does. These days, if someone wants to trade w/ me I ask them to send me something 1st. Then I just hope it isn't completely mediocre (but the odds are against it being ultimately that interesting).

As for what you propose sending me in trade? Well, you certainly have a sense of humor - & we probably would have been friends 30 years ago - but these days I 'need' something a bit more subtle & complex from people - something I don't usually or ever get.

I particularly like this sentence: "Some of my comments don't really mean anything but extreme selfishness, a negation of empathy, so to speak, as if a direct slap on the face saying "why aren't you me?"" The not-so-funny thing is that "extreme selfishness" has gotten to be one of the biggest nuisances I've run across in the last 5 years. As such, I avoid it.

message 6: by kartoffelsalat (new)

kartoffelsalat I didn't expect less from you.

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