Tim Burns is a legendary figure in the history of Australian underground art. He rose to notoriety in the early 1970s with a series of (literally) explosive art actions, before decamping to New York, where he remained, on and off until the mid-1990s… Rather than identifying as a painter, filmmaker, karaoke videographer, installation artist, theatre director or performer (although he has done all these and more), Burns calls himself ‘a context artist’. What unites the hugely varied set of projects Burns has worked on over the last forty years is a constant desire to set up situations which critically reflect on our hypermediated, industrialised western society. His interventions are usually created live, in the public sphere, rather than being quietly crafted in the privacy of a studio setting. More often than not, they result in some sort of dramatic surprise or shift in the participants' attention.[i]
Burns was a pioneer in the Super 8 New Wave in New York, producing two features, Why Cars, CARnage! (l977) and Political Transmission (l978). His 16mm feature film, Against the Grain (l980), co-produced with the Australian Film Commission and the Biennale of Sydney, was an important film in Australian experimental narrative and was shown in major international film festivals in Edinburgh, Berlin, Montreal, Valladolid, Paris, Tokyo, Perth and Melbourne.
His work has been exhibited in numerous major shows and art institutions worldwide including Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington; National Gallery of Victoria; Art Gallery of NSW; Art Gallery of South Australia; National Gallery of Australia; and the Biennale of Sydney. His work is archived at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra and Franklin Furnace, New York.
Recently Burns has been teaching film, art and interactive broadcast television at Edith Cowan University and Curtin University in Perth and is currently doing a PhD in Future Filmic discourses, Surveillance and Interactivity at Murdoch University.
[i] Lucas Ihlein, Artist Profile, Issue 14, May 2011