shu and joe

Burden of Infamy

Published on July 11, 2008

Chris Burden’s 65 foot tall model skyscraper composed of one million enlarged Erector Set pieces was unveiled in Rockefeller Center in June and will be removed a week from today. The piece, titled What My Dad Gave Me, is in line with Burden’s more recent acts of boyish engineering fantasy turned material, but seems quite removed from the 1970s performances of acts of personal risk that established his reputation.


Chris Burden, “What My Dad Gave Me” (2008) at Rockefeller Center. Photo by Stuart Ramson, courtesy Public Art Fund, Gagosian Gallery, and Tishman Speyer

There was a nice piece by Peter Schjeldahl in the New Yorker last year that made sense of this division, suggesting that after Burden’s Doomed (1975), there was no more territory for him to explore in terms of the absolution of ethical responsibility for viewers when confronted with works of art. And so a new course was in order. Most of the canonical pieces from Burden’s early phase can be seen in a 35 minute video that is online at UBUWEB.

One more clip: this is Burden talking about my favorite piece from his oeuvre, Samson (1985), which was installed at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle. The piece consists of a 100 ton jack and a turnstile that, with each revolution, slowly applies pressure to the gallery walls. In theory, if enough viewers enter the gallery space, the walls would collapse.

Filed under: Architecture, NYC
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