Chris Burden: Documentation of Selected Works (1971-1974)
“I’d like to introduce myself: my name is Chris Burden.”
Chris Burden’s provocative, often shocking conceptual performance pieces of the early 1970s retain their raw and confrontational force in these dramatic visual records, shot on Super-8, 16mm film, and half-inch video. Guided by the artist’s candid, explanatory comments on both the works and the documentative process, these segments reveal the major themes of Burden’s work — the psychological experience of danger, pain, and physical risk, the aggressive abuse of the body as an art object, and the psychology of the artist/spectator relationship. This compilation is an historical document of one of the most extreme manifestations of 1970s conceptual performance art. Included are the infamous Shoot (1971), in which Burden allows himself to be shot in the arm; Bed Piece (1972), in which he stayed in bed in a gallery for twenty-two days; and the notorious Through the Night Softly (1973), which featured Burden, arms tied behind his naked torso, dragging himself over shards of broken glass. Also included are: 220 (1971) Deadman (1972) Fire Roll (1973) Icarus (1973) B.C. Mexico (1973) TV Ad (1973) Back to You (1974) Velvet Water (1974).
Film: Michael Brewster, Barbara Burden, Don Von Valkenburg, Phyllis Lutjeans, Paula Sweet, Charles Hill. Video: Andy Mann.
“Many of the photographs are blurry, scratched, over- or underexposed - barely adequate. [ … ] The videotape compilation of his work that was shown at the Feldman Gallery last year has similar shortcomings. It includes, for instance, a short film of “Shoot,” his most notorious piece and the one that first brought him to international attention. The image quality is grainy and further degraded by the transfer onto tape, and on the soundtrack, the report of the rifle is all but lost amid the informal chatter and milling around of the spectators. This is not to say that the casual, and frequently underwhelming quality of the documentation detracts from the work itself. Quite the contrary.”
Horvitz, Robert: “Chris Burden”, in: Artforum magazine, Volume XIV No. 9 (May 1976), 24-31.