Erwin Wurm is primarily a sculptural artist who uses humour and absurdity to create works that comment on life in the present day and the issues contained within. Growing up in post-World War II Austria, his work is often critical of the values of Western society as it evolved and formed in the wake of the war.
Wurm is renowned for the bizarre quality of many of his works, pushing the boundaries of what sculpture itself means. For example, his ‘One Minute Sculptures’ series limits the lifespan of the sculpture, while others like Toilet (2014) and Mutter (2014) take everyday articles and distort or alter them to create new objects. Our relationships with objects, food, ethics and philosophy are all of significance to this commentary; his interest is in confronting all aspects of human life within contemporary culture.
Wurm’s use of humour is the vital element that unites his critical concepts with an aesthetic approach. It gives the work accessibility. He presents objects and forms that are familiar; they are identifiable, but also distorted or positioned out of context. This plays on the audiences’ understanding of the object as it exists outside of the artwork, and leads them to a conversation between that object, the elements he has distorted and what he is illustrating.
Fat Convertible (2004), for example, marries the instantly recognizable glossy red figure of a Porsche with the swollen mass of an obese human body. The industrial and biological bodies are inextricably tied together in this way, and thus Wurm invites the viewer to confront a multitude of ideas about how fashions drive an appetite for consumer goods, the fulfilling of which is now tied to the idea of satisfaction in life.
Fat Convertible also conveys an idea about the significance of internal space. The obese folds of the car come from filling in internal spaces that would otherwise be empty, even though this undeniably destroys the vehicle’s most fundamental shape. These empty spaces are crucial to both its form and function as they speak to the biological body the car is mimicking, how an abundance of consumption affects the shape and space within physical bodies, as well as how we fill the spaces we occupy when we attempt to find satisfaction. Wurm’s works are capable of carrying such loaded concepts yet he retains a true accessibility through comedy.
Wurm has spoken about his strong and direct manner of communicating, saying ‘I once read that [finding] the short way is the most important thing. I took this maxim to heart.’ His work reflects this conviction. His use of humour to make difficult subject matter easy and accessible is part of a long-standing comedic tradition, and he sees this as facilitating the possibility for light and open conversation around subjects that, while important, may otherwise be hard to discuss. Summing up his goal he says ‘Many artists are good at making the easy difficult. I’m interested in making the difficult easy.’
For the next five months, an orange freight truck will be standing on its head outside the Austrian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Visitors are invited to go up the stairs to a small enclosure at the top, where labels on all sides read: 'Stand quiet and look out over the Mediterranean Sea.'
JAPANESE PAVILION, Takahiro Iwasaki: Turned Upside Down, It's a ForestTakahiro Iwasaki has created a multifaceted spatial experience of viewing the Itsukushima Shrine located in Hiroshima, where the artist was born, raised, and continues to work. Viewers can see the site from the perspective of a bird, insect, or fish, skewing the perception of...
Ethics demonstrated in geometrical order will showcase new works from the artist Erwin Wurm's series One Minute Sculptures, which he's been making for 20 years. The series asks viewers to enact a pose with everyday items for just one minute—this time around he's using midcentury modern furniture. These audience-activated sculptures will also...
In the twenty years Erwin Wurm has been making his one minute sculptures, the sculptures' Conceptual recipe has remained consistent. Then as now, viewers, prompted by simple written instructions, realize the sculptures by briefly enacting awkward, often humorous or humiliating, poses with repurposed everyday objects such as a desk, a bunch of pens,...