With his work on view in the group exhibition House of Rituals as part of Vienna Art Week (13–20 November 2020), Ocula Advisory checked in with Erwin Wurm to find out what he has been working on during the lockdown.
With the recent shift online as a result of the pandemic, have you been invited to do virtual iterations of your 'One Minute Sculptures'?
I've been doing the 'One Minute Sculptures' for 23 years now—that's a long time in the art world. I don't want to repeat myself—I've been working on other stuff throughout lockdown.
I read that there are only 100 or so editions of the 'One Minute Sculptures'. Is that right?
It's true. I could have made thousands, but then it would have weakened the concept, and I have had to be tough with this.
I got all these invitations to do the 'One Minute Sculptures' at openings and parties and so on, but I never did that. They are very close to the banal, so I had to be stringent with the concept.
What changes would you like to see in the art world coming out of the pandemic?
I would like to make more shows without travelling. I had a big show at Taipei Fine Arts Museum, and we made everything with long-distance instructions.
It was a big success—there were 140,000 visitors, which for this period is surprising. Everyone had to wear masks and the public was not allowed to perform the 'One Minute Sculptures', so the museum staff performed them and the audience had to watch, which was a totally new aspect. The experience showed me that it's not necessary to travel so much and to be everywhere.
Could you tell me about your ceramic 'Dissolution' series? All the corporeal elements of your 'One Minute Sculptures' seem to be condensed in these—they're incredibly tactile.
They started because I began to feel as if I was losing track of the material process. Nowadays, I watch the work being made in the studio like an architect or engineer. But I had no help to create these—I just let myself be guided by the material.
Throughout my career, I've always been interested in the body, and in a way these pieces deconstruct the body.
Are they developed from drawings?
Not at all. They originated when I wanted to make these vases for my family, because I couldn't stand the vases that we had—one thing led to the next and I created these sculptures.
I read that you take time to draw every day, is that right?
Nearly every day. It helps me find ideas. If I have an idea, I make a sketch, and then I go on and I find something else, which leads me somewhere else—then the phone rings and I stop, then I go back...
I like to be disturbed, in a way, because then there is a cut, which gives me distance to see things I don't like. It's a very vivid, ongoing process.
What's next for you?
I have several shows planned for 2021, including an exhibition presented by Galerie König at Ruttkowski; 68, Cologne; Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Pantin, France; Lauba, Zagreb; MAK, Vienna; and Museum Jan Cunen, in Oss, The Netherlands. But the most interesting thing for me is to develop the work into new directions. It's my whole universe. I try to move on and to have fun with it. —[O]
Main image: Exhibition view: Erwin Wurm: New York, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London (19 February–23 March 2019). Courtesy the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac.