Last Days for Chris Burden at New Museum


The Chris Burden retrospective at the New Museum ends January 12, so if you’ve been meaning to go see it, now is the time. The documentation of his painful, well-known 1970s performances, like when he had someone shoot him, are well done and fill a void in purposefully little documented events. Rather flat, almost terse voiceovers by the artist looking back and describing these past performances feel particularly intimate as they play over footage of Burden inching over broken glass or setting out to sea in a canoe with a gallon of water that would save his life. However, most of the museum (which you can make your way down from the top in a less elegant version of the Guggenheim spiral) is devoted to large, show-stopping works.


Case in point: All the Submarines of the United States of America is a gallery-sized installation of 625 suspended cardboard submarines. A wall of the gallery (seen here) names each of the submarines represented in the exhibition. Without the voiceovers, or other direction, you are left to sift through the possible political meanings of the work. (The submarines have been very popular on Instagram lately.)


Sharing the gallery with the submarines, A Tale of Two Cities is a miniature reconstruction of two city-states at war with each other. Made out of thousands of toys, the details of the installation can only be seen through he binoculars set up along the perimeter. Or, was the case when I was there, perhaps through a camera lens.



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