The “pioneering conceptual artist” Chris Burden has built a prosperous career for himself based on controversy and the limitless gullibility of the official art world. In 1971 Burden arranged a stunt at the F Space Gallery in Santa Ana, California, and called it art. His exploit, titled Shoot, consisted of being shot in the right arm at close range by an assistant firing a .22 caliber rifle.
A proliferation of similarly meaningless performances followed, transforming Burden into the darling of the bourgeois conceptual art crowd. His escapades ultimately landed him a professorship at UCLA in 1978, a position that paid an annual salary of $128,300. Burden headed the “new genres” program at the university, instructing students in performance, installation, and video art. But a bizarre event at the ivory tower art department lead the professor to hastily resign his position.
In November 2004, a graduate student used a gun during an on campus “performance art” piece. Inspired by the master (who was not present), the student produced a revolver while standing before his terrified class, loaded a bullet into the cylinder, spun it, put the gun to his temple, and pulled the trigger. The gun did not fire (no doubt the cylinder was empty, or it held a “snap cap” dry fire practice round). The budding artist, who undoubtedly will someday have his own professorship, swiftly left the classroom. Campus and police officials have since concluded that there was “insufficient evidence” to bring criminal charges against the… ahem, artist.
The university’s dean of students’ office is still considering disciplinary actions against the student, which has caused other art department students to wail over a crackdown on “freedom of expression.” Such is the state of art in America. Hypocritically, professor Burden was miffed over the university’s failure to expel the gun brandishing student. Having himself opened the Pandora’s box of nihilistic performance art, the professor now lays blame on a student devotee.
Rather than take full responsibility for the demons he let loose upon the world, the disingenuous Burden accused the pupil of engaging in “domestic terrorism,” and then submitted his retirement paperwork on Dec. 20th during winter break.
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Update 5/11/2015: Chris Burden died at his Topanga Canyon, California home on May 10, 2015. He died of malignant melanoma.