“AT ABOUT 8 A.M. AT A BEACH NEAR THE LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, I FIRED SEVERAL SHOTS WITH A PISTOL AT A BOEING 747.”
Front: Chris Burden, 747, Los Angeles, California, January 5, 1973.
Back: Chris Burden is represented by Josh Baer Gallery and Kent Fine Art
Promotional postcard, c. 1988.
Size: 5 x 7 inches
This early work by West Coast performance artist Chris Burden pushed all the limits. Burden is best known for SHOOT (1971) a performance in which he was shot in his left shoulder with a rifle from 15 feet away. Violence as spectacle also played a role in TV Hijack (1972), when as a guest on a television program he threatened the interviewer with a knife vowing to kill her if the station stopped live transmission.
When questioned by the FBI after a photograph of 747 appeared in a magazine, Burden explained that the piece was “about the goodness of man — the idea that you can’t regulate everybody. At the airport everybody’s being searched for guns, and here I am on the beach and it looks like I’m plucking planes out of the sky.”
At their best, Burden’s early performances make people think about themselves and the world they live in. Even today the 747 image has a powerful resonance, so Burden’s re-use of it as an illustration for a promotional postcard published in the late 1980s is no surprise.