Harm like Chris Burden
Harm for ad's sake
Chris Burden’s pioneering performance art throughout the 1970s was notable not just for the massive burden…yep…that he would place on his body and pain threshold, but also the randomness and the one-off nature of many of the pieces.
You might recognise his name as the artist who was shot at in the name of performance art. His friend, who purported to be an excellent marksman, was supposed to just graze the him, but misjudged the shot and put a hole in Burden’s arm instead.
“Being shot is as American as apple pie” said Burden of the piece. “We see people shot on TV, we read about it in the newspaper. Everybody has wondered what it’s like. So I did it.”
Apart from getting shot in the arm, arguably Burden’s other most famous performance also involved him being nailed Christ-like to the roof of a duck egg blue VW Beetle. The car was then rolled out of the garage onto the laneway for the 15 people that Burden had invited over – they were not informed of what was going to happen.
He had also pretended to be a dead body – a victim of a car accident, he threw himself down stairs, crawled through broken glass, set his trousers on fire and hijacked a cable news show interviewer at knife-point (it’s cool though, she was in on it).
Art is pain
How far are you willing to go in the name of marketing?
Could you put your brand in harm’s way – even your audience?
Sometimes the most shocking, repulsive and nightmarish imagery can really hit home.
And so can brutal self-effacing honesty that can border on self-harm.
Here’s some examples that did both harm and good:
For the launch of a Tomb Raider game, Xbox really put punters through the ringer and a hectic test of endurance:
Two classics from Tango, particularly enjoyable for those not enamoured with James Corden, but could also bring back memories of being tortued in the playground – both ads got into trouble for causing bullying.
When Nike unveiled their powerful Colin Kaepernick fronted campaign the reaction was swift from Trump and his fanbase. Socks were burnt, things were said, and Nike lost some customers.
But…the stock did go up and sales surged by 31%. So it does quite literally pay to be brave and alienating sometimes. The line says it all:
Staying with sportswear and moving onto the grotesque, the Reebok “Belly” ad lives very much rent free in my head. It’s twisted visuals and incredibly aggressive soundtrack just seem utterly ludicrous by today’s standards.
Avis had to try harder because they were the challenger. Many have tried to ape this self-effacing approach but you can’t go past the original’s brutal yet poetic honesty.
Skoda knew they were butt of many jokes, and they knew how to play along…
Who hurt you?
Drop a comment, send a reply – and I’ll share next time.
Thanks for reading,
You really had to be there…
Want to hear more about Chris Burden’s painful art events? Listen to his episode of Kunst Please:
Subscribe for ideas.