Friday, 19 February 2016

Erwin Wurm: Wear me out at Middelheim Museum

The open air Middelheim Museum in Antwerp features works of Austrian 
sculptor Erwin Wurm in the exhibition, ‘Wear me out’. The 20 pieces on 
display highlight consistent and interconnected topics in the artist’s work, 
such as the body, colour, and clothing: these themes are further developed 
by a new collaboration with Antwerp based fashion designer 
Walter Van Beirendonck as well as  two original projects installed at the 
location’s Braem pavilion. With a contemporary interpretation of classical 
sculptural tenets, the forms and the materials in wurm’s work yield results 
that both examine and push the boundaries of the medium, ranging from 
extremes of permanence and transience. Arranged throughout  the sculpture 
garden, the engaging works are well suited to the interactive site.

‘fat house’ side view (left) and detail (right)
image © jesse willems

‘melting house’
image © jesse willems

Using materials of bronze and polystyrene, wurm gives human-like 
qualities to non-living objects such as houses  (‘fat house’, ‘melting house’),
 boats (‘misconceivable’), and clothing (‘big sweater’). These everyday 
forms are instantly recognizable to the viewer, but striking for their 
transformation in scale and volume. walking a fine line between form 
and formlessness, Wurm also renders the human physique in works 
like ‘big gulp’or  his ‘big psycho’ series. These pieces consistently 
depict unusual postures, examining the sculptural potential of 
revealing psychological mood through body language.
‘big gulp’ (2009)
image © jesse willems

‘big psycho 10′ (left) and
‘big psycho 8′ (right)

images © jesse willems

(left) ‘big pumpkin’
(right) performative sculptures 
by erwin wurm and walter van beirendonck
images © jesse willems

Wurm’s depiction of the body is not limited to durable materials, but also 
flesh and blood. drawing in viewers with colour, Wurm collaborates with 
walter van bierendonck is in the creation of living ‘performative sculptures’, 
or five hired actors wearing oversized costumes made of ruffled tulle, 
whose texture and form explore the human body’s role in transforming 
objects. This new series extends Wurm’s ‘one minute sculptures’, which 
can exist only if an audience member participates: if sculpture  is all 
about volume and space, then anyonecan be an artwork, simply by adding 
or removing clothing and weight.

performative sculptures by erwin wurm and walter van beirendonck
image © gazet van antwerpen / jan van der perre

performative sculptures by erwin wurm and walter van beirendonck
(left) image © gazet van antwerpen / jan van der perre
(right) image © jesse willems

performative sculpture (2011) 

image © elfie semotan / wallpaper

‘knitwear ceiling’
image © studio wurm

The artist uses textiles inside the museum’s Braem pavilion as well, 
creating a gigantic ‘sweater’ by covering the ceiling in pastel purple 
knitwear. On the ground below are a completely new series of 
‘möbeln performative sculptures’, in which the artist converts 
second-hand furniture into hybrid objects that act as performance 
stages: by the artist’s instructions, someone takes on the guise of 
sculpture, around, in or on the artworks on every day of the exhibition. 

performative sculpture
image © studio wurm

performative sculpture
image © studio wurm

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