Burden used TV sets in performances as decoys, implicit endorsements of passive voyeurism; an audience would find itself alienated from a dangerous situation or an endangered performer by viewing these things through the isolating remove of the screen.
The first of these— are exclusively text—bold letters spelling out “CHRIS BURDEN” against a black background, then handwritten script reading “THROUGH THE NIGHT SOFTLY” against a gray field.
Then comes the footage of Burden, who wears only bikini briefs and whose hands are tied behind his back as he crawls on his stomach through broken glass scattered on a sidewalk in downtown Los Angeles, grunting as the shards crunch underneath his body.
Since its inception, television has been the facile target of the moralizing intelligentsia, condemned in trenchant theoretical analyses and flippant blog rants, and this essay is not intended as another anti-TV-culture screed.
Rather, it will attempt to chart how Burden’s works for and about TV function as controlled psychological experiments.
By situating an artwork on local television, Burden all but ensured he would reach an audience with no previous knowledge of his work.
Burden’s next advertisement was the weird, mystifying spoken word-style , where the stoned-looking artist intoned “Science has failed / Heat is life / Time kills” either one or three times depending on whether the station was running Burden’s 10- or 30-second spot.
Acting on that, I pulled out the yellow pages and started calling up TV stations to get their rates.
I could only afford to purchase a 10-second spot ID.
My biggest problem was convincing the station that I was worth bothering with, that I was a legitimate artist.
(1971), Burden’s performances had begun to attract audiences expecting something dangerous or spectacular–a less than optimal climate in which to do something unexpected.