Antwerp, Belgium

Chris Burden

After nearly four decades, Chris Burden is still best known for his early 1970s performances, which continue to influence new generations of artists. Seeing the filmed performance Shoot, 1971, again at the Middelheim Museum, one realized that the raw power of the action remains intact after all these years. The piece marked a radical shift in the relationship between artist and spectator: The audience became accomplices instead of innocent viewers. But most disturbing of all was the filmed performance Velvet Water, 1974, thanks to a contemporary resonance that could not have been imagined at the time. In a room next to an auditorium, a group of spectators at the Art Institute of Chicago could see on several television monitors how the artist was, as he announced, going to “breathe water.” For an unbearable number of minutes, the audience watched live on the screens and listened from the

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