Doorway to Heaven

Year: 
1973
Format: 
photography
text

“At 6 pm I stood in the doorway of my studio facing the Venice boardwalk. A few spectators watched as I pushed two live electric wires into my chest. The wires crossed and exploded, burning me but saving me from electrocution.” This subtitle of Doorway to Heaven describes the event that made up the work in all its simplicity and intensity. The work is symptomatic of the series of body performances that Chris Burden staged up through the 1970s, a period of radicalised artistic experimentation and social unrest in the US. Other performances included being shot, locked up, crucified to the roof of a car, and crawling on his stomach on pieces of broken glass. Doorway to Heaven explicitly connects the human body with the electricity necessary for upholding the modern lifestyle of an air-conditioned living room with a television that this body had become accustomed to. Transgressing the safe confines of consumer culture the connection is violent, or rather extremely dangerous, yet at the same time the genesis of a beautiful image of almost spiritual qualities. It brings together vulnerability and power in an amplified moment of bodily presence.

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