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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
What Is Art?
by Betty Jo Tucker

Burden showcases the late Chris Burden, an artist whose dare-devil art made him famous -- or infamous -- and whose unique approach to art  continues to fascinate many people throughout the world. Performance art became a challenge for Chris in the 1970s. He made himself a part of his perilous art pieces then and emerged as a counter-culture figure. But it’s his unique later sculptures and installations that stand out to me in this revealing documentary written and directed by Richard Dewey and Timothy Marrinan.

This film does not idolize its subject. However, one cannot help being impressed by the passion, intensity and dedication Chris Burden brought to his various complicated projects, no matter what obstacles stood in his way. And his motivation to make art accessible for everyone – not just the elite – is easy to admire.             

Burden shows an artist so rare.

His art at first caused quite a scare.

Dangerous things just spurred him on.

Like being shot. That’s not a con.


“Art Evil Knievel,” it’s said.

Was that thought really in his head?

But performance art called to him.

It truly was not just a whim.


Later, beauty his work enhanced.

Installations by him entranced.

Provoking some, his work will last

despite his quite jaw-dropping past.

Burden gave me my first exposure to Chris Burden’s artistic accomplishments. While shocked by some of his disturbing early work, I am now a fan of his incredible installations -- and would like to view them in person someday, especially “Metropolis II” and “Urban Lights.” Inspired by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis film, Burden created a kinetic sculpture representing what he thought cities would look like in the future. “Urban Lights” includes over 200 street lamps from the 1920s and the 1930s. Both installations are located at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Guess I’ll have to teleport myself back to LA LA Land soon.        

So, what IS art? Here are four different answers to that question:

Art points us in new directions that make us think and question. --- Warren Criswell

Whatever adds richness to the experience of being alive is an art. --- Quang Ho

Art is what you can get away with. --- Marshall McLuhan

Art is what you most like to view or hearing things that most please you. --- Betty Jo Tucker

(Released by Magnolia Pictures; not rated by MPAA.)

For more information about Burden, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website. 

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