Beam Drop, Chris Burden


It is immediately clear this was not carefully constructed and quietly arranged, SOMETHING happened here.

It is violent, visceral and atavistic.  Even viewing photos of the finished sculpture, with elegant magic hour shadows sliding through the jagged angles of the steel beams, the piece communicates some great violence. What giant was hurling spears into a strangely formal square of concrete? There is beauty, similar to a rock slide or perilous ice water fall it has the power of nature embodied, some great cataclysm created this. It is the manifestation of Edmund Burke’s romantic notions of the beauty and sublime, it stirs terror in the heart of frail humans overawed by some greater power.

This is only part of the story, as important as the finished piece is the making of it, conspicuously signposted by the title. The video of its making has the feeling of small children finding a frozen over pond and wantonly breaking the perfect surface.  It is playful and fun, not completely the antithesis of the sublime, health and safety sensibilities are tangibly tweaked as lethal girders drop, however it is undeniably enjoyable in a childish way.  Playing with a very big train set creating a crash for the hell of it.

All of this makes for an entirely accessible piece of work – either considered as the final sculpture or the making of film, both tap into such basic human feelings at our core that it is impossible to not be fascinated. There is a dichotomy creating tension between the sublime and pure childish play, both are so basically relatable, this is where its success lies.