Art Clip of The Week: Chris Burden On His TV Ads

Fin Murphy

California-based Chris Burden gained controversy and acclaim from the early 1970s from his provocative, self-destructive performance art. These range from the 16mm film Shoot, which depicts him being shot in the left arm, and Trans-Fixed, where he was briefly crucified to the front of a Volkswagen Beetle.

In this clip, he reflects on his series of subversive televisions ads aired sporadically over four years from 1973. Some portray his penchant for abuse, such as his unclothed crawl through broken glass, or a painful breakdown of his 1977 earnings (just over $1000, for your information).

Burden reflects on this time. He expresses the surprise with which he could access television advertising, both in its cost and potential spread over a viewing public with only three channels to choose from. Burden remarks on how the salesman who worked out his deal was later sacked for allowing his work on television. His view is grounded in the idea that commercials are all that matter on television, that programmes are fluff; through this, for a few seconds a night he was able to shoot through to the small screen.


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