In Support of Uncertainty: Chris Burden’s Doomed

Chris Burden, Doomed, 1975

© MCA Chicago

The MCA is deeply saddened by the passing of artist Chris Burden on Sunday, May 10. We are honored to have worked with Burden throughout the various stages of his career, from his earliest performance work to his more recent sculptural projects, and our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends. Burden is arguably one of the most significant figures in the history of contemporary art, and the nature of his work—often described as intensely provocative, iconoclastic, extreme, groundbreaking, masochistic, radical, political—has profoundly affected the way we think about the extremely visceral impact of art as experience.

Chris Burden, Doomed, 1975

© MCA Chicago

In , the MCA presented what has now been recognized as one of Burden’s most seminal and controversial performances, Doomed. Organized in conjunction with the exhibition Bodyworks and curated by Ira Licht, Burden’s performance was one of four artist events that took place at 237 East Ontario Street, the MCA’s first location. Vito Acconci, Laurie Anderson, and Dennis Oppenheim were also invited to perform in the galleries. Licht conceived the exhibition as a reflection on what he described as the growing practice of artists using their bodies as a means of performative expression. Licht viewed Bodyworks as connected to, but distinct from, Happenings and performance art because the content of the work was often intimately personal—the artist’s physical body “bears the content and is both subject and means of aesthetic expression.”1

Works Cited

  1. Ira Licht, Bodyworks, exh. cat. (Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1975), n.p.
  2. Chris Burden in Chris Burden: A Twenty-Year Survey, exh. cat. (Newport Beach: Newport Harbor Art Museum, 1988), 74.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Video documentation by Dennis O’Shea of Chris Burden’s Doomed, 1975, MCA Library and Archives.