“It's a functioning sculpture. My wife says it's not something to fool around with. You can actually get inside, but the day you need to go in here is a dark day. It will be too late. Or, it could become a beehive; it's the shape of a beehive. It came from watching Palestinian street fighters, and I kept thinking, what could you make that is seemingly innocent – this is basically a Home Depot purchase – but that could be a substantial fortification? There are gun ports. It's an aggressively defensive structure. It's going to be here forever, whatever forever is. I have fantasies of building more of these, just to be an agent provocateur. I had a fantasy of making one of these, and somehow having a 50 caliber machine gun mounted on a circular track with a film camera, and you would just go around and around shooting until there was nothing but a pile of rubble.”
"It's an aggressively defensive structure. It's going to be here forever, whatever forever is"
Artist Chris Burden mostly keeps to himself on a mountaintop in the wilds of Topanga Canyon, about an hour outside of Los Angeles. He's lived there for 30 years, producing large-scale works in a massive studio and watching for coyotes. Famous for his borderline insane performance-based work in the 1970s, Burden is the rare artist that has maintained relevance after achieving early notoriety. Burden's early work is required art history: he was shot by his assistant, was crucified on a Volkswagen, crawled on his belly across a floor of glass, set himself on fire, starved himself, and pushed every single limit there was in a grand gesture to find the space between art and going too far. His current body of work includes bombastic engineering feats – towering skyscrapers built from children's Erector sets, instantly recognisable clusters of streetlamps and a series of miniature cities, hectically teeming with matchbox cars.
Chris Burden: Extreme Measures is at the New Museum until January 12.
Text by Maxwell Williams