Left: Erwin Wurm, Taipei Outdoor Sculpture, 2000 | Right: Erwin Wurm, One Minute inTaipei, 2020. Courtesy the artist and Taipei Fine Arts Museum.
Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, Erwin Wurm was unable to install his show at the Taipei Fine Art Museum. The show, which opened on April 1, 2020, was mounted completely with long distance instructions. Not only that, the pieces were produced entirely in Taipei. Wurm also delivered specific instructions for live destruction of the work. In a recent conversation with Shifting Vision, he expanded on how the bones of the art world have changed this year, including travel, physical engagement with viewing art, and installation practices.
This was not Wurm’s first foray into long distance art installation. Many years ago the artist was invited to make a show in San Francisco but was unable to fly over, so he ended up sending instructions, pieces and drawings for the installation of the work. When the piece was sold, he sent further instructions to install the work in the collector’s home. He said: ‘This brought me into these instruction drawings, and then I went on with it because I found it interesting.’
Erwin Wurm, Roast yourself under the sun of Epicurus, 2007 - 2020. Courtesy the artist and Taipei Fine Arts Museum
When asked about how he sees the involvement of the viewer playing out in his works the artist said: ‘There are different parts in my work where I use ‘you’, the viewer. In my One Minute sculptures when I invite people to realise a piece using my instructions, they are very strict and I invite people to follow them. Of course they can do anything they want, but only if they do exactly what I want is it a piece of mine.’
The live destruction of the works ‘by sitting or steeping or walking’ on them carries a potent meaning for Wurm. He said: ‘I strongly believe that destruction of something creates something new’.
Erwin Wurm, Untitled (Tennis Balls) , 1998 - 2020. Courtesy the artist and Taipei Fine Arts Museum
The success of the installation in Taipei using drawings and instructions certainly speaks to Wurm's primary interest in form. He told Shifting Vision: ‘What I’ve realized is that I’m not doing a piece out of the content. I’m doing a piece out of the form, and in relation to subject and form. Never out of the content. So it's not the concept, it's the realization and experience with material and form which is the beginning of my work.’
Erwin Wurm, One minute in Taipei, exhibition view, 2020. Courtesy the artist and Taipei Fine Arts Museum