Chris Burden is one of my favorite performance artists. A couple of years back I was at the Pompidou in Paris which was featuring LA art from 1970-1990. It was amazing. In the early 1970′s, Los Angeles was delivering decade defining artists in film, performance art, sculpture, multi-media installations, feminist rhetoric…ect. Chris Burden was one of the most controversial artists in Los Angeles at the time.
He was made famous by his piece entitled Shoot. He had one of his assistants shoot him in the shoulder as a performance art piece. After the performance he was brought to a mental hospital for evaluation. My favorite performance by Burden is Doom. Burden laid motionless in a museum gallery under a slanted sheet of glass, with a clock running nearby. He planned on laying there until someone interfered with the piece. After 40 some hours a museum guard put a pitcher of water within arms reach of Burden. Chris then smashed the glass and the clock with a hammer.
I believe that his confrontational performance art was a heavy influence on the Los Angeles Punk and Hardcore scene. He also challenged the heirarchy of Gallery, Artist, and lay person. Tearing down those boundaries and making people reconsider the “God-like” worship of Artists and their institutions. These paradigms of stage, artist, layperson..ect were also being challenged by the punk/hard core bands of Los Angeles in the early 1970′s and 80′s.
Also, David Bowie mentions Burden in one of my favorite songs Joe The Lion off of Heroe’s.