Simon discusses Chris Burden and found art

Caitlin Williamson

Thursday, Feb. 7, Curator of Exhibitions at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) Jane Simon gave a lecture entitled “Cars, Dresses, and Shelves: Learning from Chris Burden’s B-Car” at the Wriston Art Center. The lecture was sponsored by the Art and Art History Department and the Fine Arts Colloquium. Simon discussed upcoming exhibitions that will be coming to the MMoCA, as well as the work of performance artist Chris Burden.
Burden’s better-known works include being nailed to a car and having his assistant shoot him in the arm. “The point of his art was to make his body part of the sculptural work-he was not interested in the violence or sensationalism,” Simon said.
The main piece of art Simon focused on in her lecture was Burden’s B-Car. The B-Car is a small car Burden built by himself in 1978. He claimed it could go 150 miles per hour and get 150 miles to the gallon. Burden built the B-Car to make a point about the relationship between consumers and corporations.
“He wanted you to be able to buy something that you can customize yourself,” Simon said. “Burden wanted you, as the consumer, to choose to circumvent the corporate system. [The B-Car] really was an extension of Chris Burden himself, an embodiment of the artist.”
There are several other artists Simon mentioned in her lecture that use ‘found’ art — making something ordinary like a soccer ball or shopping bag into art — in a similar way as Burden to promote people making their own things, including Fabrice Behr and Lucy Orta.
Simon’s favorite part about the art of Chris Burden was his ability to make a point about something important in the world.
“I think it’s most interesting that [these artists] have this ability to critique culture; I think they have a certain way of understanding how we live in this world and the way we could live in this world,” Simon said. “It’s kind of a utopian imagination thing — imagining what we have, and thinking way beyond that, solving all the problems of the world.”
Simon is currently working on two upcoming exhibitions, the work of T.L. Seline, which will open in May, and the work of George Segal, which will open in September.
Some art students were able to have a critique with Simon. Senior Melanie Heindl, a double-major in art history and English with a minor in studio art, had a one-on-one art critique with Simon.
“It was good getting advice from someone who is not only a curator but an artist as well. It was really cool seeing what someone else that might be exhibiting your works might say about them, or what she’s looking for,” Heindl said.