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Art Anecdotes : Chris Burden’s Death Wish

Through ART ANECDOTES, Art From Us brings you funny, heart-warming and sometimes heartbreaking stories that shape Artists and their work. Today we look at the time Chris Burden’s Death Wish.

Art From Us and Divvya Nirula bring to you a curated collection of Art related events, from suspected murder, to love affairs, to grand theft and curious cases of creation through ART ANECDOTES. Join us on this fun-filled ride of exploring and reliving these art-tales.

Chris Burden’s Art

Chris Burden (1946 – 2015) was an American Conceptual and Performance artist, most well known for his works in the 60s and 70s. Burden’s performances were characteristically dangerous, outrageous and jaw-dropping. He pushed his boundaries of self, and used his body as medium in the creative act.

Chris Burden, Shoot (1971)

Arguable Burden’s most outrageous work, and one of the most iconic performances in art history is Shoot (1971). For this piece, the artist asked one of his friends to shoot him with .22 rifle from a distance of 15 feet. For the sake of art. Like any obedient friend (or not), the man shot Burden.

The performance took place at F Space Gallery in Santa Ana, California. Burden publicised it to the editors of Avalanche, an avant-garde publication, by simply stating, “I will be shot with a rifle at 7:45 p.m.”

While the bullet was only supposed to graze Burden’s arm, it ended up going a little deeper. Burden and the shooter had already had an agreement that no charges would be pressed. After all, it was in the name of art and creativity!

Over the years, people have speculated about Burden’s motivation behind the work. The answers range from it being a reaction to the Vietnam war, to just an artist seeking attention. The work was immortalised through an 8 second video of the artist being shot, as well as a few photographic stills.

Who Shot Chris Burden?

The identity of the friend had been a long standing secret. However, following Burden’s death in 2015, The New York Times released a short documentary about the man, identified as Bruce Dunlap.

To read more stories visit Art Anecdotes.

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