Magazine article Artforum International

Chris Burden

Magazine article Artforum International

Chris Burden

Article excerpt

MUSEUM FUR ANGEWANDTE KUNST

Chris Burden's exhibition in Vienna's Museum fur angewandte Kunst (MAK) wasn't just his first large-scale show in a European museum. It also marked the peak of a European "rediscovery" of the artist that began in 1990, particularly in France, and that could be seen in others' work throughout the decade. "Chris Burden: Beyond the Limits" offered a summation of Burden's various installations and projects since the 1977 C.B.T.V., as well as drawings and the Deluxe Photo Book, 1974 (fifty-three documentary photographs of performances dating to 1971); as such it was a corrective to the view of Burden throughout Europe, where his renewed importance is still based largely on his early, Aktion-inspired "events" and performances.

In the MAK show, twelve monumental sculptures and projects largely unknown in Europe, such as The Big Wheel, 1979 (in which the rear wheel of a motorcyle, flush against a three-ton flywheel, sets the latter spinning), were organized around The Flying Steamroller, 1996. This new work, conceived in 1991 but realized for the MAK show, seems to exemplify Burden's conception of sculpture-as-engineering. Burden shipped a 12-ton Navy surplus steamroller from his home outside Los Angeles to Vienna (this global, transoceanic voyage had been at the core of Burden's original concept for the MAK, Ring Canal Project, 1995, which proposed flooding Vienna's Ring Canal and linking it to the Danube, making possible a completely amphibious transport). The steamroller is connected to a central hydraulic unit and an almost 40-ton cement counterweight; when the operator circles at top speed in the steamroller, the machine is lifted more than three feet off the ground and is transformed into something like a heavy-machinery carousel. The Flying Steamroller retains the clarity found in Burden's best large-scale sculptures, a clarity that comes out of his emphasis on engineering and science as models for the artist. …

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