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Art & Culture / AnOther Thing I Wanted to Tell You

Chris Burden on his Beehive Bunker

Inspirational figures get personal and share a passion with us in AnOther Thing I Wanted to Tell You

Chris Burden on his Beehive Bunker
Chris Burden on his Beehive Bunker Photography by Magdalena Wosinska

As his show at the New Museum enters its last week, Chris Burden considers the sculpture slash bunker he built in his back yard

“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

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