In the 1980s, sculptor Erwin Wurm (b.1954) made the decision to take no work to a gallery show in Bremen, and instead used the objects and people in the immediate vicinity to create transient performative sculptures he then photographed and exhibited. Combining immediate humour and underlying cynicism, which allow for myriad interpretations, the artist has since gone on to question both the traditional definitions of sculpture and much larger social issues.
Wurm’s work is highly-lauded worldwide. When we spoke to him he’d just returned from showing in Paris, and was working on upcoming shows in Vienna, Odense and Copenhagen…
It’s Nice That: A good place to start would be at the beginning…
Erwin Wurm: Exactly, but what’s the beginning? That’s the question…
INT: Well, your work over the last three decades has been defined by or associated with sculpture, but we know you’ve said you originally wanted to study painting, and became a sculptor by coincidence. Why did you want to become an artist in the first place, and what was the coincidence that led you to becoming a sculptor?
EW: Well that’s exactly the question my father asked me at that time: “Why do you want to become an artist?” I have no idea, it was just there, a huge desire. I got caught, I would say, by the arts and by the fascination for art and literature and so on. I grew up in a little bourgeois family, and art and literature and music weren’t really welcome. Those things were considered suspicious even. But for me it opened a door to a totally new world – all of a sudden – a place to escape to and discover new things. The wish to become an artist grew slowly. When I was able, after I discussed the question with my father a million times and finally he agreed, I took the exam at art school. At that time the system meant that if you were accepted they would decide in which section you were allowed to study, and they put me in the sculpture class not in the painting class, although I desperately wanted to become a painter.
Then there was big drama and frustration, you know, but after a while I started to think about what sculpture means and decided to take it as a challenge. From that point on I started to research and question sculptural issues. I guess I still do it today.
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