Erwin Wurm, Austrian artist best known for his unusual and radical depictions of everyday life in conversation with Antoine Schafroth.
Since the beginning of your career, you redefine the sculptural object; I’mI’m thinking about your body of work, one minute’sminute’s sculpture and photographic sculptures, for example. Could you give me your definition of sculpture in 2021?
Well, that is a complicated question. I can’t just talk about me. In my definition, a sculpture can be everything. In the traditional way, it’s a three-dimensional object. It also includes people who are doing something with it. So it’s also in action or a movement.
From your point of view, what is the role of the sculptor in contemporary society?
Everybody tries to fulfill an essential role in society, to make sense. But I think that the artist, from my understanding, is someone who does not produce sense. He makes non-sense, it does not mean stupid. Non-sense, in a way creates a free space.
I got in my mind your fat cars. Are they functional? For what kind of person did you imagine them?
The fat cars are not functional. They are just the idea of a technical object combined with a biological structure, which is growing. Maybe in the future this will also happen to us and we will function like this. It is also about to make an example of what basic sculptural work is or means adding volume or taking volume away. By adding and changing volume, we change content. And then the question was: what is happening if I do the same with the car?
I have noticed that one of your series is entitled “abstract sculptures”. I think it’s interesting as they all are realistic sausages compositions. Furthermore, most of them got a precise title as “dog”, for example. Could you explain your definition of abstract sculpture ?
I wanted to play with the abstract notion, and I wanted to lead the people in a certain way to the pieces. Because, of course, they are sausages but to call them abstract would lead the people away from it. I invite the public to look at them as sausages and also as part of an abstract world. The sausage is an icon of middle European food. It came with a particular habit of thinking about the world and the man dominated world. It became more and more critical.
But still, there are certain habits; it’s still ongoing even if it’s changing now. It’s a symbol for a certain idea of old fashioned thinking and understanding of the world on the one side. On the other side, they are biological; they are part of animals as they are intestines. They are also food; they combine different things, and they all have a minimalistic shape. It could remind of early cultural idols or minimalistic art. They are sausages, but what is important for me is that they transport the idea of content and form.
Can you tell me more about your last show at “The Serious Life of a Ridiculous Man“? I noticed that only a few cucumbers got shoes. What does it mean in contrast to the cucumbers without shoes?
The sausage and the cucumber both have primarily and minimalistic forms; easily we can read them. There are differences between different cucumbers and different sausages, but they all have a basic form. And they have this statuary, minimalistic, idol shape of something standing. It could also be a symbol for human beings just standing quietly. On the other side, the sausage and the cucumber remind me of a specific part of the male body. Males were the ones who dominated the world and brought the world to the point where it is now – with all its madness and craziness.
Sometimes I wanted to go closer to the human being by adding shoes or something else. And sometimes, I wanted to go farther away and go back to the abstract world. It’s a play in between all these components.
What are you working on at the moment?
I work at the same thing as always. It’s developing slowly. I opened a show two weeks ago at Thaddaeus Ropac in Salzburg with cucumbers, white bread, semolina bread rolls and sausages in stone. It’s basically what the Austrians and the Germans like. These food trucks, you can eat outside and drink beers. It comes with an attitude that comes with certain people. So, it’s about this attitude. I’m also doing more abstract works between human bodies and abstraction. It’s hard to describe. It will be in my next show in Paris at Thaddaeus Ropac.