Chris Burden will forever be known as as the artist who had a friend shoot him in the arm in 1971 as a performance piece, not to mention the one who once stuffed himself into a student locker for five days, starved himself for 11 days on a desert island, fired match rockets at his then wife in front of a live audience, and had himself crucified on top of a Volkswagen Beetle. But in recent years, the late artist, who died in 2015, has become an Instagram sensation for a newer generation, too.
That’s thanks in large part to Urban Light, Burden’s work consisting of over 200 street lights from the 1920s and ’30s, which have been lighting up the outside of LACMA—plus thousands of phone screens—since 2008. It’s at that museum, too, where, a week after his death, Burden debuted his next—and final—showstopper: Ode to Santos-Dumont, a work that now, two years later, has found both a comeback and a much larger audience this week at Art Basel in Switzerland, thanks to Gagosian Gallery.
An homage to the Brazilian inventor Alberto Santos-Dumont’s historic 1901 circling around the Eiffel Tower in a dirigible airship, Burden’s Ode showcases the artist’s own dirigible, which the artist constructed over the course of 10 years, and which has been filled with helium and affixed to a metal structure with a motor below in order to circle around a 60-foot parameter. And while it’s been somewhat hard to catch—the voyage only continues as long as there’s fuel, and the engine takes two and a half hours to cool down after each circle—it’s also been dependably drawing crowds, who’ve been patiently for the blimp to circle at least enough times to capture the perfect Instagram. See their best videos, here.
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