Selected Interview: Erwin Wurm
I’m quite excited to make this interview with you. You’re not so known in Denmark, unfortunately. Have you ever shown in Denmark?
Lets start with your background. Did you go to art school in Vienna?
Yes, I studied in Vienna. I wanted to study painting but they didn’t accept me in the painting department. They put me in the sculpture department, which was a big problem for me at that time.
Which year was this?
I started painting when I was 17. So I told my farther I want to become an artist and he said no, no, he was very much against it. He was a detective. For him art was suspicious, kind of criminal. So he said; first you make a profession. I studied art history and German. Then I began studying at the art academy when I was 23 and they put me in the sculpture class.
Did you have a conceptual approach to art at this time?
No, I had no idea what I was doing. The sculpture class was very different from painting. I was chocked. Then I sat down and studied the old sculpture books. I made research of the history and the notion of sculpture for many years and then I forgot all about it! I was interested in the concept of sculpture: the 2-dimensional to the 3-dimensional. When does an action become a sculpture? Things like that are in my work.
I can see that. So it was early on you questioned what a sculpture is- the fundamental questions. The concept of sculpture, the process of making it. The elements that are now part of your work.
Yes. Then I realized I wanted to use the notion of sculpture as a red line through my work. I was 23 then), now I’m 53 but still I take this notion with me.
The second issue was that I was a student, so I didn’t have much money. Therefore I had to find a very cheap way of working and make my sculpture. So I used what other people threw away and what I owned – my clothes, the dust etc. So for that reason I came to use the daily life objects.
It can be helpful with a challenge like the financial restriction.
Yes. I also developed work, which could be reinvented and reinstalled in other places at very low cost to save the transportation cost.
As you challenge the idea of sculpture you use photography as a medium to show time in your sculptural ideas.
Yes, here we are with the question: How long is an action an action? When does it become a sculpture? I ask myself questions like: If you stand still for one hour, then are you a sculpture?
So I made a video of a person standing still for one minute and then I looped it for one hour. You see this person standing still for one hour but our brain is constructed to see movement, so you think he is moving but he isn’t. The piece is directly in between action and sculpture.
Recently I have seen some very large sculptural works by you. A parcel house, which has landed on the roof of the Vienna Kunsthalle.
I started working with daily life objects and daily life ideas and meanings. Important questions of our life: health care, concern about yourself, the status of your body – being fat or not. Beauty care, advertisement, property. All these things around us became all of a sudden (all of a sudden became) important and I wanted to relate it to the notion of sculpture.
When you gain weight or loose weight, it’s a sculptural process. So I made the fat car and the fat house to show our wealth.
In Austria there is so much intellectual garbage and social garbage. We have all these crappy houses, built very cheap. That is mostly small-minded people who live in those places. They hate art because they are scared of art and they are aggressive towards art. So I made a house like this smashing against the museum.
What is the work you have done recently?
This year I have made two films. One is of this couple. They are driving around. They are looking for a place to park but they can’t find a place so they drive up the facade of a building to the 6th floor and park and get out and start to walk and it’s absolutely realistic(ally) done – like a Hollywood production. I’m looking forward to show it.
The other film I have done is of a guy standing in a field and being hypnotized for 14 hours! He really did it! The hypnotist is telling him; you’re a sculpture, you’re connected with the ground, talking all the time for 14 hours and the guy is just standing there, it’s unbelievable.
I’m looking forward to see(ing) those films. I think we have covered some interesting areas. Is there anything you want to add about this exhibition?
This exhibition is interesting. It’s just a small part of my work but it’s a good introduction to my work.