Chris Burden, an American sculptor and performance artist known for his extreme works, passed away on May 10, 2015. Many of his works have been best described as “shocking”. What distinguishes him from other artists of the 20th century is the radical nature of his work.
His performance pieces were often depictions of violence in which he was always his victim. In Trans-Fixed he was crucified to a Volkswagen Beetle, he got kicked down two stairs, and shot in the case of Shoot1 (1971).
Trans-fixed, 23 April 1974
In 1974, Chris Burden was glued to the back of a Volkswagen Beetle in a small garage on Speedway Avenue. First, Burden stood on the rear bumper of the car. He then laid down, stretching his arms onto the roof. Nails got fixed through the palm of his hands and into the car’s roof. Then, the garage door opened, and the vehicle was pushed halfway outside. The engine ran at full speed. After two minutes, the spectacle was over, and the car got pushed back inside, and the door got closed.
Burden considered the Volkswagen Beetle “the ‘people’s car,” so his crucifixion liberated not just himself but everyone else as well. The title Trans-fixed reminds of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The performance also recalls the concept of transubstantiation, the process by which the Eucharistic bread and wine (communion) become ‘Christ’s body and blood.
Josh Baer’s analysis might be the best fitting:
By having this sort of pain and distress at first hand, Burden can create it more familiar and, in turn, demystify the horror of such events by making them known both to himself and to the public. As a consequence, the group fears that society operates to maintain individuals in line are revealed and render impotent the concept that the human body is regulated by law.