Chris Burden = Hypocrite!

by mrcookieface on January 26, 2005 · 15 comments

in Stupid People

I’m Outraged!

Chris Burden, controversial performance artist of the seventies, has abruptly quit his teaching job at UCLA after the university’s refusal to suspend a student for using a fake handgun in class as part of a “simulated Russian roulette” performance art piece.

Burden’s the man who allowed himself to be shot in the arm with a .22-caliber rifle in 1971 as an artistic statement on the Vietnam war.  He even crucified himself to a Volkswagen in 1974!  Now that a student of his one-ups him, he demands his student’s suspension, and Burden himself quits his job after the University balks.  I used to have respect for the man’s work, but now?  I’m just disgusted.  HYPOCRITE!



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  • .alphamonkey.

    Look, the yahoos of Jackass at least admit their stuff is just stupid, infantile humor. They don’t get all hoity toity and call it art.  So I’m not sure I can muster up any sell-out anger at Burden. 

    But what I can muster is the bemused appreciation of student that totally PWND his prof.

  • mrcookieface

    I’m sick!  I slept until noon, and I can’t keep anything down.  I’m going back to bed now.

    That filing can wait until tomorrow.


  • killdozr

    sorry – but i think i agree with Burden on this one.

    If Burden was the professor witnessing the performance, and felt that way, then obviously the student did NOT inform Burden of his intentions in a very touchy area for many people – handguns in institutions of learning.

    think of the implications of this THE OTHER WAY AROUND.

    all it would take is some parent that hears of the “performance art” with a live gun on the premises, freaks out, busts down the school administration’s door with the press in tow, and BOOM – Burden is hung out to dry.


    the student walks out of the room with a live gun, some freako D&D playing, attention-starved kid who just had his freshman crush dump a smoothie into his lap and wants to make someone pay – a scuffle, a shot, etc.

    Burden could have been professionally humiliated (or worse) by this, had something gone out of control. Same for UCLA.

    sorry – i dissent.

  • .alphamonkey.

    Two things stand out from this:

    1) At no point is it alleged that the student aimed the gun at anyone other than himself.

    2) The gun as far as anyone can tell, wasn’t even real.

    I think it’s ludicrous to punish someone for what MIGHT have happened had the circumstances been different, especially in the arena of art.  I think UCLA did an incredibly brave thing by standing by the student and their principles, to ensure that future artistic endeavors aren’t being censored out of a misplaced need to feel ‘safe’.

    Perfomance art is about shock and confrontation, as well as confronting fears and taboos. If UCLA had disciplined the student for his piece, they’d have no right to be considered an open, free-thinking school.

  • killdozr

    sorry – i don’t believe you’re thinking clearly here.

    1) this doesn’t matter at all – the minute he pulls it out, someone watching could freak out and go for it, causing a scuffle, and having an uncontrolled firing – if in fact, you actually knew the answer to point number 2. which no one did – BUT – which Burden should have known, since it was his class.

    that’s the whole crux of this issue – the teacher is responsible for the direction and control of his class – since the student didn’t inform Burden of his intent, i would see this as a violation of class and university rules.

    if the student informed Burden of the nature of the piece, he wouldn’t have ruined the shock and confrontation of the piece for whom it was intended: the class.

    He just wouldn’t have driven a wedge between himself, his teacher and the institution.

    but fuck it – perhaps Burden is in on it – who knows, maybe this is an elaborate attempt to make people think about deadly weapons and their place in society. stranger things have been attempted.

  • .alphamonkey.

    I’m uncertain as to why my thinking in this matter is clouded, especially since I’m no fan of performance art (quite the opposite in fact).

    But again you are stating that this student should be punished for the fear of what might have occurred, not what actually happened.  I find that idea to be repellent to the idea of a free society, as well as an exceedingly dangerous point to hang a person upon. Thus begins the slippery slope of censorship.

    I’m also unsure as to what would be gained by a teacher being forewarned of the contents of an art piece whose form almost completely relies on sudden and spontaneous reaction.  I would argue that laying out a piece beforehand would lessen the teacher’s ability to understand the work as both viewer and critic.

    I’m not going to argue that the student didn’t misuse the trust of his teacher and classmates to his artistic advantage, whatever that may have been, but I don’t see why the school should then turn around and abuse the trust the students have in their department and school that they won’t reprimanded for actually excelling at the underlying point of performance art.

    Part of your previous argument is that had there been a lawsuit or criminal instance as a result of the student’s piece, Burdon would have been hung out to dry since he didn’t have the ability to control it, but seeing as the school was willing to fight for the student in this regard, I find that a flimsy argument.

    I don’t care one way or another regarding the future of Chris Burdon. The article stated that there were a whole other bag of contentious bones between he, his wife, and the school.  I simply have a lot of respect for a school that would stand it’s ground and protect a student like they’ve done, especially in this day and age.

  • Shadow Stalker

    So it should be okay for someone to drive as fast as they want as long as they don’t hit anybody, or carry around a gun as long as they don’t use it.  What if you shoot at people without trying to hit them.  As long as nothing goes wrong nobody gets hurt.

  • .alphamonkey.

    Way to oversimplify and stretch the concept beyond the bounds of this conversation.

  • Shadow Stalker

    “I think it’s ludicrous to punish someone for what MIGHT have happened had the circumstances been different.”

    Pretty general.

  • mrcookieface

    the minute he pulls it out, someone watching could freak out and go for it, causing a scuffle, and having an uncontrolled firing

    It was a FAKE GUN!  What’s the student going to do?  Yell “BLAM BLAM”?

    Look, my problem with Burden is his response.  This is an artist whose notoriety relies on shock, violence, and bloodshed.

    This student shed no blood.  No one was in any danger.  I find Burden’s reaction as hypocritical.

  • Just Plain Bob

    perhaps he was angry that the student didn’t use real bullets?

    but seriously… as far as real gun/fake gun i think it’s better to err on the side of caution. Better to assume it’s real and have someone yell “BLAM BLAM!” as the plastic breaks… than assume it’s fake and have somebody die as the professor says “oooh, very realistic blood packet usage!”

    my only problem is that Burden QUIT after this. I mean, to avoid the fallout of angry parents, all he had to do was send the kid to the dean’s office.

    could it be that Burden was hoping to one-up his student by taking the student’s production, and completely over-shadowing it?

  • killdozr

    yes – it was a fake gun. but no one knew it at the time.

    but like Just Plain Bob stated – when you’re performing at a school, you err on the side of caution because of sensitivities that have arisen over so many school shootings and whatnot.

    all it would take is just a few minutes with Burden and the student “hey, for my piece next week, i’ll be bringing in a starter pistol – or whatever.”

    the audience the piece was intended for would not be informed, merely the teacher – who has been assured that the gun is fake, and can therefore maintain control of the class.

    the fact that the school stood behind the student means nothing, since no press was involved on the side of an angry parent – their loyalties weren’t tested in any way. this incident merely provided them an opportunity to rid themselves of a teacher they were having issues with.

  • Just Plain Bob

    wait.. i’m sorry.. did someone just agree with me?

  • Shadow Stalker

    Even a fake gun could cause trouble if everyone panics.  It’s like yelling fire.

  • fealty2dahriyah

    oh this has got interesting.

    Burden is a hypocrit. that stunt is exactly up his alley. I’d say his anger is probably more directed at himself, a little jealousy bug.

    this student is lucky he’s not in jail. fake gun or not, using one in any aggressive manner(yes suicide) is a crime. and it’s like all those fools who use waterpistols when robbing stores. granted it’s also illegal to discharge a weapon in most cities limits. and having been in a class where someone brandished a pistol, and not for art or fun, i still find this cool. fuck yeah it freaked everyone out… but damnit a little blood rush is good for you fatties.

    what a brilliant piece of work by this student. I wish I grew up w/ people like this around me. I mean this is PETA blood splashing turned up to 11.

    and telling anyone would have killed the whole point… who says deception can’t be art.

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