Chris Burden

Back in 2006 I surprised my wife with a trip to Paris the day after she finished her finals. It was an amazing trip - we stayed in a small hotel that had been recommended on the George Hook radio show. It was in a great location near the Jardin du Luxembourg (where, rumour has it, Hemingway shot pigeons for his dinner when he lived in Paris).

We had a super time in Paris, whiling the time away in small bistros and drinking wine and eating lots of cheese in-between visiting museums and art galleries (my favourite was the Picasso Museum but I also enjoyed the Musee d'Orsay).

We also made a visit to the Georges Pompidou Centre to appreciate both the architecture and the art. We saw both Kandinsky and Pollock in the Pomidou Centre along with work by an artist that stuck with both my wife and I for years to come, even though we couldn't remember the artists name.

Over the years after our Paris trip we would discuss the art we had seen and in particular the films of that artist who "put wooden ladders in a room that had a plastic coated floor which was then flooded with water while an electric current was sent through the water - all while people stood on the ladders". We each had different thoughts on this work but we agreed that we thought it was something to do with the fragility of life and how we are all in our general lives at all times very close to death by the situations that we put ourselves in. I don't know if this was actually the artists intention to convey this message but that indicates the subjectivity of art - this is what my wife and I got from it.

The other piece we saw was what we now know is called "Shoot". This involved the artist being filmed while he was shot on the arm by someone. Whoa!!  You can not believe how this piece stuck with us. Many a time I mentioned this art work to friends in discussions about modern art and what is art. It certainly got the conversation going!

Anyway flash forward over 10 years and I am browsing Netflix. and up pops a recomendation for me. It is "Burden" about artist Chris Burden. I click in and not long after I realise it is about the artist above that I had seen all those years ago in Paris. I had never known his name!

Click here for the trailer for "Burden"

It was interesting to watch all about "Shoot" with a fresh perspective but it was also brilliant to see all of his work beyond the two pieces we had seen. In particular, the much replicated "Trans-fixed" where he was suggestively crucified on a Volkswagon Beetle which was extremely thought provoking for me.

Watching this documentary brought me to a new level of appreciation and understanding of this artist. I began to understand that what he was working on is performance art and that it was very much based on ideas and activities rather than creating art work for the commercial art market. It is about making art for art's self. What a noble ideal.

Read more about Chris Burden here.