Chris Burden (born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1946) is an American artist.
He studied for his B.A. in visual arts, physics and architecture at Pomona College and received his MFA at the University of California, Irvine from 1969 to 1971.
Burden's reputation as a performance artist started to grow in the early 1970s after he made a series of controversial performances in which the idea of personal danger as artistic expression was central. His most well-known act from that time is perhaps the performance piece Shoot that was made in F Space in Santa Ana, California in 1971, in which he was shot in his left arm by an assistant from a distance of about five meters. Burden was taken to a psychiatrist after this piece. Other performances from the 1970s were Five Day Locker Piece (1971), Deadman (1972), B.C. Mexico (1973), Fire Roll (1973), TV Hijack (1972), Doomed (1975) and Honest Labor (1979).
Several of Burden's other performance pieces were considered somewhat controversial at the time: another "danger piece" was Doomed, in which Burden lay motionless in a museum gallery under a slanted sheet of glass, with a clock running nearby. Unbeknownst to the museum owners, the concept of Doomed was that Chris was prepared to remain in that position until someone from the museum staff interfered in some way with the piece. Forty-five hours later, a museum guard placed a pitcher of water next to Burden, thus ending the piece.
In 1975 he created the fully operational B-Car, a lightweight four-wheeled vehicle that he described as being "able to travel 100 miles per hour and achieve 100 miles per gallon". Some of his other works from that period are DIECIMILA (1977), a facsimile of an Italian 10,000 Lira note, possibly the first fine art print that (like paper money) is printed on both sides of the paper it is printed on, The Speed of Light Machine (1983), in which he reconstructed a scientific experiment with which to "see" the speed of light, and the installation C.B.T.V. (1977), a reconstruction of the first ever made Mechanical television.
In 1978 he became a professor at University of California, Los Angeles, a position from which he resigned in 2005 due to a controversy over the university's alleged mishandling of a student's classroom performance piece that echoed one of Burden's own performance pieces. Burden cited the performance in his letter of resignation, saying that the student should have been suspended during the investigation into whether school safety rules had been violated. The performance allegedly involved a loaded gun, but authorities were unable to substantiate this.
In 2005, Burden released Ghost Ship, his crewless, self-navigating yacht which docked at Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 28 July after a 330-mile 5-day trip from Shetland. The project cost £150,000, and was funded with a significant grant from the UK arts council, being designed and constructed with the help of the Marine Engineering Department of the University of Southampton. It is said to be controlled via onboard computers and a GPS system, however in case of emergency the ship is 'shadowed' by an accompanying support boat.
Chris Burden is married to the multi-media artist Nancy Rubins.
Burden was referenced in David Bowie's 1977 song "Joe the Lion".