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Erwin Wurm invites Koreans to redefine sculpture by becoming one themselves

2018/04/18 15:16

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By Woo Jae-yeon

SEOUL, April 18 (Yonhap) -- Everyday objects like an empty plastic bottle and a broom are placed on a white plinth at a cultural space in Seoul. A closer look reveals handwritten instruction as well as a drawing from artist Erwin Wurm on what to do with it.

It seems like a joke, or is it?

   The Austrian artist is holding his first solo exhibition titled "Erwin Wurm: One Minute Forever" at Hyundai Card Storage in Itaewon, central Seoul. Co-organized by Hyundai Card and Tate, the show displays more than 70 of Wurm's artworks, including his representative "One Minute Sculpture" series that was shown at the 2017 Venice Biennale. Also on display are 48 photographs, two sculptures and one video from the Tate collection.

This photo provided by Hyundai Card Storage shows Austrian artist Erwin Wurm at his first solo exhibition "Erwin Wurm: One Minute Forever" at Hyundai Card Storage in Itaewon, central Seoul, on April 18, 2018. (Yonhap) This photo provided by Hyundai Card Storage shows Austrian artist Erwin Wurm at his first solo exhibition "Erwin Wurm: One Minute Forever" at Hyundai Card Storage in Itaewon, central Seoul, on April 18, 2018. (Yonhap)

"One Minute is just synonymous of being short. It can be 10 seconds. It doesn't matter," the artist said during a media event on Wednesday. "The important thing is that you freeze the moment, which is a sculptural moment."

   Simon Baker, a senior curator of International Art (Photography) at Tate Modern who accompanied the artist at the event, said the exhibition is "very much about participation and activating the work."

   Although it might seem simple, "It is actually very difficult. You must concentrate and try very hard to realize the vision of the artist," he said of "Organization of Love," a work from the "One Moment Sculpture" series.

A visitor participates in Erwin Wurm's "One Minute Sculpture" series at Hyundai Card Storage in Itaewon, central Seoul, on April 18, 2018. (Yonhap) A visitor participates in Erwin Wurm's "One Minute Sculpture" series at Hyundai Card Storage in Itaewon, central Seoul, on April 18, 2018. (Yonhap)

First performed in 1997, the ephemeral pieces reveal the artist's belief in sculpture as a form of action. Visitors to the gallery are required to strike a pose with everyday items for a short moment, which can be captured to last forever in the form of photography. The artist said he has stopped taking photos of those moments as the photography, at some point, started to receive increasingly more attention.

For his Seoul exhibition, he has created "Dumpling Car," a life-size, flabby emerald blue vehicle that is part of his "Fat Car" series. It questions, the artist said, modern society's consumerism and its focus on volume -- the essence of sculpture.

"Changing form means changing the content, an important idea I am interested in," the 63-year-old artist said.

This photo shows Erwin Wurm's "Dumpling Car" on display at Hyundai Card Storage in Itaewon, central Seoul, on April 18, 2018. (Yonhap) This photo shows Erwin Wurm's "Dumpling Car" on display at Hyundai Card Storage in Itaewon, central Seoul, on April 18, 2018. (Yonhap)

His 1993 experiment titled "From L to XXL in 8 Days" gives visitors day-to-day, detailed instructions on how to become fat. The laugh-inducing texts include such instructions as "Hold in your stool," "Lie down and read or watch TV," "Go to bed early" and "Wake up late." Another point of guidance titled "2 o'clock at night" kindly informs readers what to eat in the wee hours in order to gain extra kilograms.

In his "Me/Me Fat" photographs created from 1994-1997, Wurm experiments with his own body to raise fundamental questions about one's identity and the relations between form and content.

The artist's sculptures might evoke instant humor, but what lies underneath is his deadpan seriousness towards the essence of sculpture as a form of art.

The exhibition runs through Sept. 9.

This photo shows one of Erwin Wurm's instructive drawings inside "Ship of Fools." (Yonhap) This photo shows one of Erwin Wurm's instructive drawings inside "Ship of Fools." (Yonhap)

jaeyeon.woo@yna.co.kr

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