Performance Art and the Automobile: 100mpg, 100mph, Chris Burden Was a Greenie and a Hoon

Illustration for article titled Performance Art and the Automobile: 100mpg, 100mph, Chris Burden Was a Greenie and a Hoon

On Monday, we flashed back to the early 1970s and madman artist/seminal art hoon Chris Burden, who had himself nailed to a VW Bug. At the time, we promised more on Crazy Chris, who has in the intervening years graduated to a rather exalted position in the art world (many commenters in the first post pointed to other Burden works). Unfortunately, we had some technical difficulties yesterday which delayed us a bit. Anyway, not long after Burden's adventure with the nails and the Beetle, the artist once again proved himself to be a true California boy and a proto-greenie as well as a hoon with a conscience, creating a piece of art that was all about driving as an esthetic statement.

It was 1975. American had recently been wrung out by OPEC and gas lines. Subcompact imports were beginning to make a dent. All manner of alterna-transport was being explored, even as the nation finally extracted itself for good from The Nam.


Burden undertook work on a handmade, one-person hybrid of bicycle, automobile, and airplane. In his own words:

I set the goal of completing the car for two shows in Europe. I saw building the car as a means toward the end of driving it between galleries in Amsterdam and Paris as a performance. When I arrived in Amsterdam, I knew that the accomplishment of constructing the car had become for me the essential experience. I had already realized the most elaborate fantasy of my life. Driving the car as a performance was not important after the ordeal of bringing it into existence.

"...the most elaborate fantasy of my life." Artists in the 20th century had an intense relationship with the automobile, but probably none moreso than Burden. The ultimate installation, titled "B-Car," was exhibited in April of 1977. According to Burden, there were 120 design drawing included in the show. We'll see what we can do to track some down.

In the meantime, look forward to our next installment, when we recall Ed Ruscha, a speeding Buick, and a typewriter.

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Raphael Orlove

@beercheck: Man, what you gotta do is chill out,man. Like, jive to the beat, man. Man, man. Like, man. Like, you just got to get hip. you know, man? Like, hip, cat, like a hip cat! Yeah man! Get hip! Awww man.