"I am an artist. Artists are simple creatures. Give us something to draw with and some food, and we're content.
Or to paint or sculpt whatever. That's all we need, really". 1
Erwin Wurm's Zeitgeist or Where do I fit in the grand scheme of things?
Zeitgeist is a German word meaning the spirit of the times, the spirit of the epoch or sign of the times, designating the ensemble of the intellectual and cultural climate of the world in a certain epoch, or the general characteristics of a determined time frame. Erwin Wurm (b.1954, Austria) refers to it frequently when speaking about his work, in a constant exploration of the relationship between Art and Philosophy that expresses itself in various forms within his work (such as in the Philosophers series, 2009). This allows him to speak of the absurdity of human condition within contemporaneity through humour and irony. The material is thus rendered with a psychological and emotional connotation expressing a certain state of affairs.
Idiots that we are (Idiot I, II and III series) in the times that we live in, and essentially absurd, it isnít difficult for us to understand how we can use laughter as derision (as philosopher H. Bergson would have it); in sum, as a weapon for combat and denouncement. Wurm explores it, incessantly, through sculpture, gifting it with endless possibilities: by shaping, transforming and deforming.
In this sense, his work questions the notions of classical sculpting and its conventions, subverting it and creating odd still lifes of the quotidian and the banal. It appeals thusly to the capacity of questioning of the observer who feels at once bothered and attracted by the simultaneous strangeness and familiarity (Heimlich/Unheimlich) of each situation that is created. For this reason, it is essential for the artist to resort to a shared database, from popular icons (Claudia Schiffer series, 2009) to consumer brands (Hermès series, 2008), the mores of the Middle East (Babylon series, 2010) and everyday items (chairs, detergents and toothbrushes, among others). In him, sculpting, much as life itself, is an ephemeral act that is captured only by photography, as a witness of the event.
Wurm's work creates a psychology of our society, in that it establishes, by itself, strange relationships between people and the atmospheres they live in and the things they possess. A politically incorrect man (recalling one of his older series, Instructions on How to be Politically Incorrect, 2002/03), Wurm fulfils the role of one who is a marginal in the face of hypocrite normality (he often tells the story of his father, a police detective, who always saw artists as a type of criminals) and, through the use of consumables ìof our timesî expresses the spirit of now, within the frame of an attitude concerned with shape and content. In truth, much like all of us, Wurmís work deals with the constant truth of the difficulty to manage life.
Here, laughter is serious business.
Carla de Utra Mendes
The work of Erwin Wurm is present in many prestigious collections, such as: Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane (Australia); MUMOK - Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna (Austria); Centre Pompidou Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris (France); Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main (Germany); National Museum of Art, Osaka (Japan); Kunsthaus Zurich, Zurich, Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, St. Gallen (Switzerland); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, The Judith Rothschild Foundation, New York (USA).
1 Wurm, Erwin, in Video Interview on Submarine Channel, recorded on 2007-09-06.