interview with erwin wurm on body-based art and beverage-drinking at 'yes biological'
 

interview with erwin wurm on body-based art and beverage-drinking at 'yes biological'

over the last twenty years, austrian artist erwin wurm has produced a body of work that evokes the absurdity found in mundane actions of everyday life, addressing sculptural issues that relate to the human body. from now through february 22, 2020, lehmann maupin’s west 24th street gallery in new york is hosting an exhibition of new work by the artist that blends biological effects to push the boundaries of sculpture even further.

 

titled ‘yes biological’, the exhibition builds on wurm’s one minute sculpture series — the focus of the austrian pavilion at the 2017 venice art biennale. wurm has produced a series of one minute forever sculptures, where he has substituted the active human body with acrylic versions. here he incorporates fruits or books held ‘forever’ by disembodied legs and hands, and in one work, a torso resembling a greek sculpture with a chair precariously resting on its shoulder.

interview erwin wurm
bar (drinking sculptures), 2019
metal, wood, acrylic, styrofoam
74.8 x 43.31 x 64.96 inches / 190 x 110 x 165 cm
all images courtesy the artist and lehmann maupin, new york, hong kong, and seoul

 

 

also on view in this exhibition at lehmann maupin, wurm’s bar series deploys found furniture such as a sidebar, a table, or a commode, bisected by a larger-than-life size pickle or potato-shaped white sculpture. the entire work is then used as a bar. distortion of forms is further explored in wurm’s dissolution series, where body parts such as a belly button appear embedded in a sculpture abstracted to the point that new organic forms emerge. meanwhile, the self-portrait sculptures are works that the artist shaped using the imprint of his knee onto clay and combined with everyday objects such as a broom, a plunger, or tennis balls.

 

on the occasion of the exhibition, designboom spoke with wurm about this latest evolution of his work, the participatory aspect of the exhibition, and his fears — and hopes — for the future. 

interview erwin wurm
bar / yellow table, 2019
bronze, glass, wood, metal
65.35 x 43.31 x 31.5 inches / 166 x 110 x 80 cm

 

 

designboom (DB): how does your new series of work for ‘yes biological’ fit in to the evolution of your work overall?

 

erwin wurm (EW): my main interest has always been to address sculptural concerns and the relationship to the human body. for example, when you add or remove volume, when you lose or gain weight, these are sculptural acts. this has long been a thread throughout my work — in my ‘one minute sculptures’, the ‘fat car’ series and others. now this concern reappears in these new sculptures on a different level. 

interview erwin wurm
one minute forever (chair), 2019
acrystal, metal
50.39 x 22.83 x 16.54 inches / 128 x 58 x 42 cm

 

 

DB: what role do you want the audience to play in the viewing of this exhibition? what kind of participation is asked of them?

 

EW: there are three works in the exhibition that require the audience to be an active participant in the realization of the artwork — psycho I (one minute sculpture), bar (drinking sculpture), and bar / yellow table. in psycho I, the audience is asked to follow the instructions I have provided, which require that they interact with a sweater. in bar and bar / yellow table, the audience must drink the beverages provided in order for the work to be completed. in all three instances, the work is not complete without the audience’s activation.

interview erwin wurm
one minute forever (hands/fruits), 2019
concrete
15.35 x 7.87 x 5.91 inches / 39 x 20 x 15 cm

 

 

DB: there is a mix of mediums found across the exhibit and featured works, what is the common thread that underpins the projects overall?

 

EW: the common thread is the idea of the human body and its relation to sculptural concerns. the ‘one minute forever’ sculptures, for example, address ideas around time and permanence associated with sculpture. there are additionally abstracted forms meant to translate realistic bodily parts, for example tennis balls which serve as a stand-in for eyes.

interview with erwin wurm on body-based art and beverage-drinking at 'yes biological'
director (herrentasche), 2019
bronze
74.8 x 19.88 x 9.45 inches / 190 x 50.5 x 24 cm

 

 

DB: as audiences often have a role in animating and activating your artworks, what do you think the role of an artist is in society today?

 

EW: artists have the ability to reflect in the best way the particular moment in which they are working and to address the concerns and issues of our time.

interview with erwin wurm on body-based art and beverage-drinking at 'yes biological'
selfportrait with eyes, 2019
bronze, acrylic
19.29 x 35.43 x 24.41 inches / 49 x 90 x 62 cm

 

 

DB: what are the creative strategies you tend to adopt when working?

 

EW: I don’t have any specific strategies; I’m very easily able to create my work intuitively. I’ve come to believe that it is better to go where the material and the ideas lead me, rather than to follow any predetermined strategy.

interview with erwin wurm on body-based art and beverage-drinking at 'yes biological'
urinal, 2011/2019
acrylic, paint
43.31 x 29.13 x 15.75 inches / 110 x 74 x 40 cm

 

 

DB: what are you currently fascinated by, and how is it feeding into your artistic practice?

 

EW: more and more, I am interested to dissolve realism and in doing so, my work has become more and more abstract in a way. I am interested in the paradox of this.

interview with erwin wurm on body-based art and beverage-drinking at 'yes biological'
peace cautious (dissolution), 2018
ceramic, glaze
21.26 x 19.69 x 11.02 inches / 54 x 50 x 28 cm

 

 

DB: what are you afraid of regarding the future? what are you optimistic about?

 

EW: I am afraid of the future for our climate and our natural resources, and how mankind are dealing with the threats we face today. I am hopeful, or optimistic, that we will collectively make the much needed change needed to save our planet.

interview with erwin wurm on body-based art and beverage-drinking at 'yes biological'
noser (dissolution), 2018
ceramic, glaze
18.5 x 14.17 x 15.75 inches / 47 x 36 x 40 cm

interview with erwin wurm on body-based art and beverage-drinking at 'yes biological'
installation view of ‘yes biological’ lehmann maupin, new york, 2020

interview with erwin wurm on body-based art and beverage-drinking at 'yes biological'
installation view of ‘yes biological’ lehmann maupin, new york, 2020

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