Making danger its primary subject and the artist its recurring object, Chris Burden's early performance work pushed the limits of both artist and viewer experience. As one of the artists to radically recontextualize the relationship between shock, bodily experience and artistic expression during the 1970s, Burden remains an enormously influential figure in conceptual art. One of his best-known and most-circulated pieces is "Through the Night Softly" (1973) a short video in which he crawls bare-chested and arms-bound over asphalt made starry by a constellation of broken glass. Aired as a commercial on a local Los Angeles television channel, "Through the Night Softly" serves as a formal bridge between performances in which ego is excised through self-harm, and a series of works where ego is embodied through the material-less medium of advertising.
Throughout the 1970s, this landmark series of late-night television commercials blurred the worlds of entertainment, advertising and conceptual art. Appearing as idiosyncratic interruptions to the station's regular programming, Burden's sometimes shocking, sometimes dryly humorous advertisements reveal how easily notoriety and stature could (and can) be bought, manipulated, and subverted through popular media.
Burden's commercials will get another round of airtime in a special interview premiering February 25th, on the Museum of Contemporary Art's online channel, MOCAtv. In it, he shares the motivations and logistical complications behind his four historically
significant ads: Through the Night Softly (1973), Poem for L.A. (1975), Chris Burden Promo (1976), and Full Financial Disclosure (1977). Produced by filmmaker and art documentarian Peter Kirby, the interview is the latest video in the West Coast Video Artist series, an original lineup of interviews and rarely seen works by seminal West Coast video artists - only available on MOCAtv.
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