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The Big Wrench

Chris Burden (American, 1945–2015)


Medium video; color, sound; 15:12 min. Measurements No Measurements Credit Video Purchase Fund Accession Number 82.8.4 Location Not on View


During the 1970s, artist Chris Burden was an influential and often controversial figure in the genesis of the West Coast body art, performance and conceptual art movement. Burden achieved notoriety for performance work through which he investigates the psychological experience of personal danger by putting his own body at physical risk in sensational situations. In 1974 he began working with video, using it as an integral component of his performances, and to document his work. A few years later, Burden began producing sculptural objects, installations and technological or mechanical inventions that addressed the artist's relationship to an industrialized and technological society. The emphatically matter-of-fact story Burden tells in The Big Wrench is an account of his disastrous encounters with his eight-ton truck, "Big Job." This fragment of the artist's own life is not only an amusing—albeit terrifying—barometer of psychological existence, but a metaphor for contemporary technology and beauraucracy as well.