First Advisor

Robin Hextrum


Regis College

Degree Name


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Number of Pages

52 pages


A significant component of contemporary arts is performance art. Two spearheads of the birth of performance art are the Serbian artist Marina Abramovic, and the American Chris Burden, both of whom worked primarily in the 1970s. Abramovic and Burden have often been compared for the similar characteristics of their work: both artists create intense, provocative, and violent work. While Abramovic uses these aspects of her work to make political or social commentary, and connect to her audiences on a humanistic level, Burden uses these aspects without creating a deeper meaning or inspiring thoughtful dialogue. By exploring several comparable works by both Abramovic and Burden, we can understand that Burden’s works are regressive and have little to no artistic merit; with a closer look, we see that Burden uses his position as a white, American man to create work that is harmful to both women and minorities. However, critics then and now have acclaimed Burden’s work as “innovative” and “avante-garde.” They praise his willingness to break boundaries by making work of an extreme nature, yet leave Abramovic out of the conversation despite the merits of her work, thus illustrating a substantial gendered bias. After conducting in-depth analytical comparisons of the two artists’ work, and observing how their race and gender positionalities come into play in their respective works, we understand that critics and historians have unfairly commended Chris Burden, and ignored important aspects of Marina Abramovic’s contribution to art history. This thesis sets out to question Chris Burden’s historical canon as a performance artist, and rather, emphasize the foundation that Abramovic truly set.

Date of Award

Winter 2020

Location (Creation)

Denver, Colorado

Rights Statement

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