Victor Burgin (b. 1941) is a British artist, cultural theorist and photographer. He studied Painting and Philosophy at The Royal College of Art, London (1962-1965) and Painting, Sculpture and Philosophy at Yale University, New Haven (1965-1967). He taught photography at Nottingham Trent University (1967-1973) and then at the Polytechnic of Central London (1973-1988). Burgin was a Professor of Art History and Professor of History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz (1988-2000) and currently holds the Emeritus Millard Chair of Fine Art at Goldsmith’s College, University of London.
Victor Burgin is considered as one of the originators of Conceptual Art and his work appeared in such key exhibitions such as Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form: Works, Concepts, Processes, Situations (1969-1970) at the ICA London, and Information (1970) at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. At this point of his career, Burgin was examining the difference between explicit and implicit meaning. Inspired by semiotics, film studies and psychoanalysis, he combined photographs and texts in an attempt to rework the language of mass media. He explored the codes and conventions of mass media, claiming that advertising images appealed to him because “they are used… deliberately in the service of ideology.” Therefore, in works like Framed (1977), from the US77 series, he attempts to subvert the Marlboro advertising campaign and, in Lei-Feng Series (1973-1974), every panel presents the same image from a commercial for sherry. This image is counterposed with the parable on Maoist worker Lei-Feng and in every panel Burgin also includes a commentary about the inter-relationship between the image and text. In Possession (1976), a series of posters with a man and a woman embracing was installed throughout Newcastle together with the following text: What does possession mean to you?/ 7% of our population own 84% of our wealth.” Other important works of this period include Room (1969), UK76 (1976), Zoo 78 (1978-1979), and Office at Night (1985-1986). In 1986, Burgin was nominated for the Turner Prize for his video and photographic works.
Victor Burgin has published numerous books and essays on art theory and criticism. His most important theoretical books include: Thinking Photography (1982), The End of Art Theory: Criticism and Postmodernity (1986), In/Different Spaces: Place and Memory in Visual Culture (1996), The Remembered Film (2004), Situational Aesthetics (2009), Parallel Texts: Interviews and Interventions About Art (2011). In addition to his theoretical works, Victor Burgin has also written a number of “hybrid” publications that defy genre classification: Commentary (1973), Between (1986), Some Cities (1996), Venise (1997), Voyage to Italy (2006), and Components of a Practice (2008).
Artist and media theorist Victor Burgin, and philosopher and artist D.N. Rodowick (University of Chicago, Department of Cinema and Media Studies) investigate displaced or effaced histories of architecture and urban space in the near South Side of Chicago through the creation of site-specific audiovisual installations.