Erwin Wurm

Bizarre Moments of Escape

Primitive society had its masks, bourgeois society its mirrors. We have our images. (Jean Baudrillard)

Actually he had wanted to become a painter. But the professors at the art academy stuck him in the sculpting class. Because he was deemed more talented in grasping the world in all three dimensions. He initially tackled the coordinates of sculpture: dimensionality, mass, volume, surface. And worked on traditional themes: riders on horses, walkers, standing figures, bathers. Erwin Wurm is a disciplined man.

Yet before long his interest shifted from the structural properties of the figures to the forms of action in sculpture and the process of their creation. In Renaissance the received opinion was that a sculpture had to last a thousand years. Wurm confronts the fleetingness of life today with ephemeral works. He once demanded that visitors to his exhibition transform themselves into “One-Minute Sculptures”. He then photographed the scenes and later, for a fee, sent the signed photos back to those portrayed. And as additional utensils he uses pencils, buckets, oranges, cucumbers or balls. In other words, not expensive materials but everyday objects. Erwin Wurm is a pragmatic man.

In his photographs, gherkins have been wedged between the naked toes of a woman’s foot, and asparagus stuck into the nostrils of a business man, two legs jut out of a window, a woman lies on her stomach on the sidewalk, her head in a bowl. But Erwin Wurm does not wish to make anyone look ridiculous. Instead, he wants to suspend rationality, create leeway – short bizarre moments of escape from our material world. Even CEOs have allowed him to portray them in eccentric poses, he recalls. Erwin Wurm is not a humorist.

Biographical information

1954

born in Bruck/Mur, Austria

1979-82

studied at the Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna/Austria

lives in Vienna, Austria