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Chris Burden (United States)

Boston, Massasuchetts, 1946

Beam Drop Antwerp


This work by Chris Burden represents diversity and division, as well as deterioration and decay.

The 2009 Chris Burden exhibition featured a spectacular opening during which spectators witnessed, live and close-up, the creation of his Beam Drop Antwerp.

Liquid concrete was poured into a pit measuring 12x12 metres, to a depth of 2.5 metres, after which 100 steel beams were dropped into the ground from a height of 45 metres using cranes and the force of gravity. In this piece, the performance artist Chris Burden used steel like painter Jackson Pollock used paint.

The pronounced angles of each individual beam, the interaction between the various beams and the relationship between some of them and the edge of the concrete foundation are all evocative of a fundamental force, one that is based on both order (the measured planning of the execution, the illusion of construction) and disorder, and even total chaos (forms crashing into other forms, others that burst at the seams).

The work represents diversity and division, as well as deterioration.

The steel, which is rusting in places, bears some resemblance to an immoveable carcass, but is equally representative of transience. 

This was not Chris Burden’s first experience with rusty steel. At the start of his career he had himself nailed to the bonnet of a Volkswagen Beetle and was shot in the arm, which many interpreted as a protest against the Vietnam War. He has also constructed machines intended to make the speed of light visible, others that produced paper airplanes and still others capable of steering an unmanned ghost ship.

With support from Middelheim Promotors.



  • Beam Drop Antwerp
  • 2009
  • Steel
  • MIDW505

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