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three Burden ......................................................................................................... ‘‘i’d set it up by telling a bunch of people, and that would make it happen.’’ I n Chapter 2, we saw Acconci disturb the relations between public and private, often along an axis of property ownership. He put his personal property in the public space of the gallery in Room Piece; he exercised ‘‘his’’ sexual fantasies in Seedbed, in a public room that he rather made his own, and in Claim he staged the defense of a more or less useless corner of someone else’s private space as a public act. In claiming these spaces in the course of art, Acconci undertook a parodic deformation of the property owner’s access to public legitimation, and of the artist’s claim to an equivalently public legitimation. Particularly in Claim, he enacted a brute parody of any recourse to idealized means of legitimation; the force of the better argument was reduced to the blind swinging of a lead pipe. The strongest argument for this is that it exposed the violence underlying ideal conceptions of the public as a realm of legitimation, and the pathological contortions of subjectivity due to the persistence of such conceptions. In this connection, Acconci begins to suggest something developed further in Burden’s and especially Abramovi¢’s and Hsieh’s work, that is, the miming of a position something like that of Agamben’s homo sacer, the figure who straddles the limits of legitimating social formations, always at once part and not part of that formation. Burden’s performance work quickly reached a higher pitch of physical violence than Acconci’s, and there may always have been a tendency simply to assign it to a pathological state. However, though Burden’s work may seem less systematic than Acconci’s exhaustive research into the spatial and subjective delineations of public and private , there is in Burden’s work, as well, the negative inference of an ideal public realm. At the same time, Burden’s work is more concerned with smaller-scale group formations, and the immediate responsibilitiesofinitialviewers (andcollaborators)aremoreheavilyemphasized, (previous page) ..... Chris Burden, Shoot, 1971. ∫ Chris Burden. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery 83 ............ b u r d e n so that while Burden’s work does speak to a mass-mediated, fully public realm, it most pointedly e√ects the transformation of its audiences into versions of community, which fail their idealization just as badly as Acconci’s versions of the public. ‘‘Community,’’ here, refers to an ideal of small-scale social organization characterized by face-to-face relations.Itfails,asweshallseeinthischapterandthenext,forvarious reasons,butprincipallybecauseitisalwaysalreadyanidealizationthat suppresses social di√erence.∞ Characteristically by means of its physical extremity, often coupled with passivity, Burden’s work held out the possibility that its audience become a group that might take the opportunity for judgment and decision, but then largely forestalled that possibility. For instance, the very violence of Shoot (19 November 1971) seems to have called out for intervention on the part of collaborators or audience members, yet once it was in train, some combination of the expectation of a specialist public, prurient fascination, an anti-moralistic, anti-authoritarian historical milieu, and the brevity of the work prevented any such intervention. Shoot, however tendentiously, negatively, or aversively, limned its viewership as an arena of responsibility, of dilemma and decision—as an ethical realm. Burden’s description of this most famous (or infamous) performance consists of three simple sentences: ‘‘At 7.45 pm I was shot in the left arm by a friend. The bullet was a copper jacket 22 long rifle. My friend was standing about fifteen feet from me.’’≤ The bullet was intended to graze Burden’s arm, but caused a more serious wound.≥ The performance took place after hours in a gallery space for an invited audience of about ten people, and it is documented by the description and a black and white photograph that shows Burden with his back against a wall and the marksman with rifle raised and his back to the viewer (so that the photographer’s view was close to that of the marksman, though not exactly the same). The photograph is so blurred as to suggest a double exposure, as if the photographer, understandably, winced (it may also be a still taken from the short video record of the work, shot by Burden’s wife at the time, Barbara Burden, though it is never credited as such).∂ Another photograph occasionally appears, which is an apparently candid, head-to-knee image of Burden...


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