Flywheels and Crucifictions, One Crazy Bastard and his “FUCK YOU” ponyshow

This is the second post in our speed-related series “Speed Trials, refractionist ” I was tipped off to the video on Kottke.org. This piece by Chris Burden takes advantage of a giant, web 19th century iron flywheel joined up with a low power motorcycle.

As you can see it takes about a minute for Burden to give the flywheel a full “charge.” At that point the wheel is spinning at an insane rate, page and according to information online, the wheel spins for 3 hours before stopping. In the early 70s, Chris Burden made a name for himself in the performance art world. As I learned from this New York Times article, (from 1989) the man quickly created a reputation for staging ridiculous acts, such as being half-crucified on the roof of a VW Beetle in Trans-Fixed (1974), or trapped in a locker in the aptly-named Five Day Locker Piece (1971).

As mentioned in the NYT story, Burden’s work is often viewed as part of an art history trend of “undermining the notion of art as a salable, museum-friendly object.” On one hand I appreciate the more ingenious mechanical aspects of Burden’s work, though some of his other pieces leave me with a twinge of annoyance, that by acting out in desperate, and embarrassingly self-deprecating way, he was able to achieve fame. The fact that he went through with being crucified on a car, electrocuted or trapped in a locker for 5 days is impressive, but only in the fact that he went through with them, not so much the ideals behind them. I don’t mean to suggest that those pieces are devoid of meaning, as it is possible I’m missing something. Perhaps what hits me wrong is that much of Burden’s work contains a property that suggests his yearning to be accepted in the insular art world, while at the same time offering a superficial, ponyshow “fuck you” to the establishment. In either case, Burden is a name worth knowing about. He’s not entirely on point all the time, but then again who is.

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