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Quinn Sinanan Neal


Ways of Knowing
November 18, 2015
Journal 12
After watching and reading about Chris Burdens performance art pieces I believe that his
performances can be considered as art, even if I dislike most of the art he performs. If you were
to try to decide whether or not Chris Burdens performances were art, then you would first need
to think about the definition of art. The problem with that however, is that many people have
many definitions and meanings for art, which makes it even harder to really determine whether
or not any art piece is a work of art. So the reason why I think Chris Burdens performances are
art is because they follow my requirements to what I think art is defined by.
If I were to define art I would say that it is anything made with imagination and
proficiency that will express many ideas or feelings. Many can also argue that art doesnt need to
have any meaning, for example Chris Burden even states, Art doesn't have a purpose. It's a free
spot in society, where you can do anything. I don't think my pieces provide answers, they just ask
questions, they don't have an end in themselves. But they certainly raise questions (page 768).
In a way I agree with him about art not needing to provide answers, as if all works of art were to
provide a single answer then there would be no purpose in attributing meaning to the work of art.
However, I would have to disagree with Burden about his first statement being Art doesnt have
a purpose, as I believe that this is contradictory to his own performance art. If his art didnt have
any purpose than why would he or anybody else want to attribute any sort of meaning to it. I
personally believe that if he claims that his art has no purpose than I would argue that most of

Quinn Sinanan Neal


Ways of Knowing
November 18, 2015
what he did for pieces would only be considered to me as shock value and a waste of time, and if
that was his point for the performance art than I think it shouldnt be considered as art. If it isnt
willing to express any ideas or feelings than it shouldnt be labeled by its own creator as art. My
art is an examination of reality. By setting up aberrant situations, my art functions on a higher
reality, in a different state. I live for those times. I don't think I am trying to commit suicide. I
think my art is an inquiry, which is what all art is about (page 768).
When reading about the performance art pieces that Chris Burden designed I noticed a lot
of them had the same theme of discomfort and pain. For example, one of his works called 220, F
Space involved the flooding of an art gallery where he and some of his colleagues would stand
and hang on to 14-foot step ladders and then Chris would drop a 220 electric line into the water.
When talking about conducting this piece Burden states, The piece was an experiment in what
would happen. It was a kind of artificial "men in a life raft" situation. The thing I was attempting
to set up was a hyped-up situation with high danger which would keep them awake, confessing,
and talking, but it didn't, really (page 770). Although his plan didnt fully come to fruition, it
seems his piece was going to convey the feeling of a life or death situation by putting themselves
in harms way for a long period of time. Even though they were not in pain and able to avoid the
water easily it the feeling of being inches away from pain can cause a lot of discomfort. Then of
course there is one of Burdens most famous pieces Shoot which involved him getting shot in
the arm with a 22 rifle with his consent. About this piece Burden states, One thing that sort of

Quinn Sinanan Neal


Ways of Knowing
November 18, 2015
bothers me is that a lot of people remember the Shoot piece and Some of the violent pieces, and
then ignore the reason for it all, the whole thing that ties it all together. They get carried away
with "There's the guy who had himself shot!" They don't go to the next step and wonder why I
would want to do that, or what my reasons are (Page 772). Like with his last piece 220, F Space
it seems he wanted to convey that sense of discomfort and surrealism, yet with the main problem
probably most performance artists face is the spectators not acknowledging the true meanings of
the piece, but instead only seeing a crazy man asking to get shot in the arm. I am willing to admit
that that was the first thing to cross my mind when viewing this piece. Which is why I think that
although Chris Burdens performance art can come across as pointless and absurd, it is still made
with imagination, proficiency and can be attributed with meaning.

References:
Stiles, Kristine, and Peter Selz. "THEORIES AND DOCUMENT'S OF
CONTEMPORARY ART." CHRIS BURDEN Untitled Statement (1975) (n.d.): n. pag. University
of California Press Berkeley Los. Angeles London. Web.

Quinn Sinanan Neal


Ways of Knowing
November 18, 2015

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