Plot: Chris Burden had a desire to be an architect, as he saw the artistic qualities in the design and creation aspects of the field. But once he learned how regimented the process was, he switched paths and pursued sculpture. He would launch an artistic career that would shock, inspire, and confuse, creating a unique brand of art that remains one of a kind, even now. He would confine himself to a 2X2X2 locker for five days, invite his viewers into a room and shout at them to leave, crucify himself to a Volkswagen, and even take a bullet, all to create his vision of artistic expression. Some found him to be a visionary, others a lunatic, but regardless of what people thought of Burden, they knew he was a powerful creative force. In Burden, we’re taken inside the life of this artist and given a personal tour of his pieces, hearing about each one from Burden himself, as well as those around the creations.
Entertainment Value: This is an engaging documentary that sheds light on a unique, highly interesting person, artist Chris Burden. The film begins with Burden as a young man interested in architecture, then follows him through a controversial career as an artist, right up to his current situation. I appreciate documentaries, but all too often, they turn into fluff pieces that idealize the subjects, especially when the film is biographical in nature. But Burden is never a fluff piece in the least, simply letting Burden, his work, and those who were involved share their perspectives and much like art itself, letting the audience judge for themselves. Burden himself is more than worthy of such a piece, as he has lived a remarkable life and his persona is so unique, you can’t help but want to know more about him and his work. In Burden, we are allowed inside the process of creation and the insights shared are honest and candid. If someone was baffled by one of his pieces or was concerned by his behavior, that is stated in plain terms and no one seems to gloss over any issues.
The exploration of Burden’s art is so captivating, as his approach and mindset are so unlike anything else in the space. And to not only see his pieces, but have his personal commentary and insights from the others involved adds a lot. You might not understand why Burden would undertake some of these artistic endeavors, but hearing such in depth comments, you can get a better read on the situation. While his art is the central element of Burden, the film also explores his personal life and the path he has taken over the years. As you can imagine, someone who would create this kind of art is every bit as interesting as the pieces themselves. Being able to see how the pieces fit into his life at the time, as well as the memories from his perspective can enhance the impact and help give immense insight. I also liked hearing from critics, including Roger Ebert, who saw his work at the time, the expectations and reactions involved. I found Burden to be a well made, always interesting documentary about a highly complex, one of a kind artist. If you have any interest in art or documentaries, Burden is one you will want to check out, as it is an excellent look at Chris Burden’s life.