erwin wurm: 'narrow mist' at UCCA
original content
jul 20, 2010
erwin wurm: 'narrow mist' at UCCA


‘narrow house’
image © designboom

 

 

erwin wrum: narrow mist
ullens center for contemporary art (UCCA), beijing
july 17th to september 15th, 2010

 

 

 

with each of his new works, austrian artist erwin wurm reinvents the vocabulary of sculpture turning it on its head. using simple materials, mundane objects, wit and written instructions, wurm invites people to interact with his art, transforming spectators into active participants, encouraging them to poke fun at the paradoxes of contemporary society. designboom just visited erwin wurm’s interactive exhibition ‘narrow mist’, on show at the UCCA in beijing, which presents sculptures influenced by childhood houses, fashion fetishes an ‘stuff’ you can find in the chinese metropolis.


outside the ‘narrow house’
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within the UCCA’s nave, one encounters ‘narrow house’, a home that is modeled after the one that wurm grew up in. the abode may look like a funhouse, but the installation raises questions about having our personal space constricted, restricted or invaded. inside there are narrow chairs and tables, narrow bookshelves lined with narrow books, a narrow sofa and narrow rooms which have been covered with a distinctly 1970s-style wallpaper.  so is the house charmingly slender, disturbingly tight or claustrophobically close? wurm invites visitors to enter the house and have the chance to walk through it to decide  for themselves.


a perspective view of the ‘narrow house’
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with subversive playfulness and an appreciation of human curiosity, wurm draws his audience in,  making them part of his creative process: ‘I want to address serious matters, but in a light way. I want to reach more than just an elite circle of insiders. if you approach things with a sense of humor, people immediately assume  you’re not to be taken seriously. but I think truths about society and human existence can be approached in different ways. you don’t always have to be deadly serious. sarcasm and humor  can help you see things in a lighter vein.’ – erwin wurm

letters to erwin wurm about the exhibition:

dear mr. wurm,
if I can’t fit in your narrow house, is it all right if I peek through the windows?  -xiao pangzi

yes, why not? it’s possible. or maybe if you go in the house, you’ll get stuck in one of the rooms.
I can’t make any guarantees you won’t get stuck.

dear erwin,
are your box statues anatomically correct? if not, how do you tell the male boxes from the female?
I tried looking under their clothes, but it was really, really hard to tell.  -name withheld

at the moment, there are just male boxes, no female boxes. don’t ask me why – I have no idea.
an inner voice told me just to make male boxes.

dear creator,
I need to access the internet. would it be possible to install broadband in one of my rooms,
or would it have to be ‘narrow-band’? please advise.  -the narrow house

no, you can install normal-band because the narrowness is just related to the house,
for this specific work, this specific house. I’m not going to force other things to be narrow.


inside the ‘narrow house’
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narrow phone
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visitors making their way through the narrow hallways
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narrow furniture in the narrow living room
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even the artwork hanging on the walls is narrow…
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the bathroom covered in 1970s wallpaper
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view of the bathroom
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narrow toilet
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narrow shower, toilet and bedroom
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narrow bed
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narrow closet
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narrow dining room
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narrow tables and chairs
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image © designboom

 

in the institution’s adjacent exhibition hall are wurm’s standing box sculptures.  dressed in sweaters, suits and prêt-a-porter, these boxy figures seem a lot like use,  almost human, if only they weren’t so…square.


image © designboom


image © designboom


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installation view of the standing box sculptures
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‘take the rubberband and play the ‘international song’ with your teeth
image © designboom

 

a third section of the exhibition is a continuation of wurm’s playful one-minute sculpture series, drawing on objects from beijing. he provides instructions for visitors on how to interact with these selected items, through writing or drawing on the floor and wall of the gallery, and asks them to take a photograph of themselves to preserve the sculptural moment forever.


‘be a shell for one minute’
image © designboom

 

 

erwin wurm was born in bruck an der mur, austria in 1954. since the 1980s, he has been expanding the concept of sculpture and delving into thezeitgeist, approaching subjects which are all too often dealt with an serious manner.  he has had solo shows around the world including the MUMOK, vienna; the palais de tokyo, paris; the contemporary art center, cincinnatti; and most recent the städtische galerie im lenbachhaus, münich.he currently lives and works in vienna.

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