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The Flying Steamroller (1996)

Chris Burden

Since the early 1970s many of Chris Burden's works have dealt with situations of violence and danger, in which he often forced the audience to witness an apparently life-threatening act. His Shoot (1971), for which he asked a friend to shoot at him in a gallery space from a 15-foor distance, is today among the classics of performance art. Burden did numerous performances, all carefully documented, which saw his body being either stabbed, cut open, electrocuted or drowned. In the early 1980s, Burden began to become increasingly interested in objects. He started to translate his actual physical presence within the performances into sculptures or monumental installations, carrying out actions by stressing the performative element inscribed in them.

The Flying Steamroller is among the best-known works of this period. Burden created a device, similar to a merry-go-round, which would make it possible for a 100-ton steamroller to lift off the ground and fly though the air in circles in front of an audience. The aspect of physical danger, in the possibility of an accident, has similarities to Burden's early stunts but here the artist switches sides and no longer puts himself in danger, but rather his audience.

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