Victor Burgin

(b. 1941)

Quick Reference

(1941– )

British artist and art theorist, born in Sheffield, who has worked with language and photography. He studied at the Royal College of Art, 1962–5, and Yale University, 1965–7. While in America, he discovered Minimal art, at that time little known in Britain. This raised issues not only about the form but the nature of art and Burgin was one of those artists on both sides of the Atlantic who developed Conceptual art. Pathway (1969) consisted of an exact photographic reproduction to scale of the floor beneath it. On one level this was an attempt to make an object which was both ‘here and not here’, a phrase from Robert Morris. It was also an ephemeral work, one which had no meaning or value outside its context and therefore was outside the system of collecting. Burgin's subsequent activities both as artist and theorist have been informed by psychoanalysis, semiology (see Barthes), and politics. Lei Feng (1973–4) consists of a series of panels. The visual element is the same in each, an advertisement for sherry which promotes the product as part of a luxurious successful life-style. Accompanying it there is a narrative from Communist China, the tale of Lei Feng, told as a parable to instill a quite contrasting set of values. The third element is an essay on how meanings are constructed. Burgin's aim is to instill a critical approach to the way the spectator reads the meanings from images and texts. He has continued to combine photography and text in his work. One series of works is based on Edward Hopper's famous painting Office at Night. Other works have drawn on film. A series inspired by Hitchcock's Vertigo links its motifs to the history of art, notably Millais's Ophelia, and draws out the psychoanalytic subtext.

Further Reading

V. Burgin, Relocating (2002)

Subjects: Art.

Reference entries