Chris Burden's Beam Drop, &c.

Apparently, it's Chris Burden day. Kottke just posted a clean clip of Chris Burden's 1979 work, The Big Wheel, in which a massive, 19th century iron fly wheel is set into rapid motion by a little motorcycle wheel. I think he took it from this longer video of a 1989 Burden retrospective, which includes Samson, in which the museum visitors passing through a turnstile slowly expand a 100-ton jack which is pushing against the gallery's loadbearing walls; and his awesome-looking B-Car, 1976, a 200-lb bicycle/car hybrid with a fabric skin. More of which later.

So no sooner did we finish watching his flying steamroller installed last year at Tate Britain,

than an email announcement arrived for Burden's retrospective at the Middelheim Museum in Antwerp. The "climax" of which, I'm told, will be--or was, since it happened last week--a re-creation of Beam Drop, a work originally executed in New York in 1984 at Art Park. Using a remote controlled latch, Burden dropped steel I-beams into a pit of wet cement.

The Belgian sponsors rather over-enthusiastically proclaim Beam Drop Antwerpen to be at once a "performance," an "action painting" and a "large abstract expressionist sculpture using coincidence and gravity." My favorite part of the videos of the all-day construction is the audience's polite clapping after each beam is dropped, as if they're watching an oversized game of lawn darts. Or quoits. It's Europe, after all.

"Beam Drop" on flickr [flickr]

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: June 5, 2009.

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