Chris Burden #ExtremeMeasures @NewMuseum

View of "Chris Burden: Extreme Measures" Retrospect at the New Museum

View of “Chris Burden: Extreme Measures” Retrospect at the New Museum

See this review in Metro New York, Tuesday, November 12.

Link to magazine online

Living Dangerously at the New Museum’s exhibit “Chris Burden: Extreme Measures”

Imagine witnessing an intruder shoot a bystander with a .22 rifle, and the fear realizing this degenerate’s control over your life during this act of violence. Now picture yourself watching a man corner California artist Chris Burden and shoot him in the arm for his performance Shoot (1971). Terror fades into pleasure, and you are stimulated similarly to playing Grand Theft Auto V. You now live for the danger.

“Chris Burden: Extreme Measures” at the New Museum exhibits the radical performances, super-sized sculptures and installations of this artist’s 5-decade career. We are seduced by Burden’s “bad boy” violence because we desire domination. When it comes to submitting to our impulses, the bigger, the louder, the better.

Burden’s artworks are thrillingly dangerous. To my dismay, actors did not revive Shoot, but the fifth floor exhibits documentation of his body performances. Burden crawls through broken glass in Through the Night Softly (1973), extinguishes his inflamed body in Fire Roll (1973) and crucifies himself to the hood of a Volkswagen Beetle by driving two steel nails through his palms in Trans-Fixed (1974).

The Big Wheel (1979) on the fourth floor is the highlight. A fusion of performance and sculpture, a museum attendant activates a 6,000-pound, eight-foot-diameter flywheel by accelerating a 1968 Benelli 250cc motorcycle. Adjacent is a balancing act between a restored 1974 Porsche 914 and a 365-pound meteorite suspended from a steel frame (Porsche with Meteorite, 2013). On the third floor, two fully operational mortars accompanied with stacks of cannonballs exude an aura of impending doom (Pair of Namur Mortars, 2013). The force and power penetrating these marvels of modern engineering enraptures your senses as they are paraded on display like luxuries for your viewing pleasure.

Burden is a rebel to the core, and through his art we realize how fun it is to live dangerously, even just for a night.

Chris Burden: Extreme Measures 

Through January 12, 2014,

235 Bowery, NYC 10002

Wednesday-Sunday, 11-6pm

Free Admission on Thursdays from 7-9pm

The Big Wheel is activated at 11:30 and 2:30 Wednesday through Sunday and at 7:30 on Thursdays

My Review on Chris Burden in Print for Metro New York



  1. erickuns · November 23, 2013

    Burden struck me as tragic and desperate, and his art as much or more theater than “art”, though those distinctions have been blurred so much recently, with everything wanting to be “high art” that there is a growing genre of “sound art” that doesn’t call itself “music”. Some of Burden’s stunts involve danger, certainly, but most of them involved pain and suffering. When he was at UCIrvine, he spent three days crammed in a closed gym locker as a piece. There was water in the locker above that he could access through a tube or something, and he could evacuate his bowels in the locker below. That couldn’t have been much fun, especially if one were at all claustrophobic. Nevertheless I admired his work when I was a student much more than that of other performance artists because of his degree of commitment. Who gets themselves shot for art? Getting crucified to a Volkswagon had to be about pain. But I’m also glad to see this kind of art fall to the wayside, hopefully, in terms of young artists hurting themselves in the name of art, which they ultimately don’t need to do. This is of the era where the artist Bas Jan Ader tried to cross the atlantic in 12ft boat as art, and never returned.

    Personally, I don’t think artists have to suffer or go looking for it. Tragedy has a way of finding all of us. Anyway, I don’t see his as a happy or thrilling art, but as hard-core, painful, art. Not for the delicate.

    • dlkalamaras · November 23, 2013

      Eric, I agree with your discussion of Burden’s 1970s performance art. His self-harm performances were acts of endurance as ways to break conventions of the individual by pushing the body towards, at times nonsensical, limits. Some of his performances were less nuanced, including “Shoot” and his “Crucifixtion” piece. Others, however, were in a way absurd because they inverted normative action to its extreme. For example, in one piece he confined himself to a bed in the corner of a gallery for 20 days. Laying in itself is not painful, its even used to ease pain and heal ailments. Burden inverts conventions of bed-rest to pain and mental anguish (as he discusses in his personal reflection). Its physically and emotionally painful when you push the body to its limit.

      The New Museum Retrospective does not highlight his early performances. Instead the retrospect focuses on his large-scale installations and sculptures he continues to make into today. His sculptures have themes of danger, military warfare, engineering, science, and defensive actions, and rather than being painful, they exude an essence of satirical danger. I see his pieces on view as visual metaphors of Stanley Kubrick’s great “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”. Being subversive, through irony, we are able to critique Power as a contradictory authority this day and age.

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I look forward to more in the future.

      • erickuns · November 24, 2013

        I saw the Medusa’s Head in LA, back in the day, and it was by far my favorite thing in the show, which I think was called “Helter Skelter”. I only wished the trains moved.

        Oh shit. Just discovered a video of Metropolis II and it has moving cars. Amazing. Burden knows what is cool, or at least I agree with his view. The light post piece was cool. Making his own B-car. Stuff like that. Yeah, I agree that it’s better than his early performance work, but also evolved out of it, clearly so.

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