From Chris Burden to ORLAN, How 8 Artists Took Their Work to the Extreme
Whether breaking past the limitations of a material to create new forms, irreparably altering one’s own body, or appropriating objects so commonplace or bizarre that they redefine art as we know it, artists have long broken the rules and tested the limits of human endurance. We’ve assembled eight artworks that have gone to extremes, and, in some cases, defined some of the most progressive art movements of the 1970s to present.
ORLAN, The Reincarnation of Saint-Orlan, 1990–1995
At the age of 15, French performance artist Mireille Suzanne Francette Porte took on the assumed name
Chris Burden, Shoot, 1971
Ai Weiwei, Straight, 2008–2012
Dissident artist Tate Modern’s “The Unilever Series” in 2010 or the nearly 1,200 bikes he welded together and suspended for Forever Bicycle (2003) at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. At the 2013 Venice Art Biennale, the massive, rippling installation Straight (2008-2012) included 150 tons of mangled, broken rebar from buildings wrecked in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, a disaster that killed nearly 70,00 people and left almost 19,000 missing. Ai’s team spent over two years straightening each of the 50,000 bars by hand for the final installation—a process the artist’s workers continued dutifully during his 81-day detainment by the Chinese government in 2011.
Marina Abramović, 512 Hours, 2014
A pioneer of performance art,
Joseph Beuys, I Like America and America Likes Me, 1974
Video compilation including footage from Joseph Beuys's performance I Like America and America Likes Me (1974) via Vimeo.
Cai Guo-Qiang, Head On, 2006
New York-based Chinese artist
Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, 1971
One of the seminal works of
Azuma Makoto, Shiki 1, 2014
Japanese botanical artist