Autumn 2007

The empathy man

Chris Burden

Thames & Hudson, £45

For a ‘conceptual artist’, Chris Burden produces some remarkably powerful (and memorable) visual images. This lovingly produced monograph (Chris Burden, Thames & Hudson, £45) draws upon a huge amount of documentation to compile a sensitive and exhaustive account of this perplexing figure, unearthing many previously unseen images and facts to present a broad, sympathetic account of his practice. Though some essays veer towards familiar artspeak opaqueness and jargon, Burden’s own descriptions are clear and straightforward, revealing the empathy that lies behind his work, from Trans-fixed (see cover) to environmentally aware sculptures such Medusa’s Head (1990, above). He also explains that Shoot (1971) was a response to the police shootings at Kent State, to ‘flip it over and do it on purpose.’ His note to an avant-garde journal explains: ‘I will be shot with a rifle at 7.45pm.

I hope to have some good photos.’

John L. Walters

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