OUTDOOR SCULPTURES, 1998–2004

Erwin Wurm


During CONTACT, St. Patrick subway station becomes a place where the everyday meets the fantastical world of constructed images. The works of Erwin Wurm and Philippe Ramette, installed on opposite sides of the subway platform, invite us to reconsider the ways we interact with objects, the world and each other. The works share strong affinities: both artists began as sculptors and use sculpture as a starting point for creating their surprising and humourous performance events for the camera.

For these works, begun in the late 1980s, Wurm solicits volunteers to enact short performances on the street, often with everyday objects. These are by turns poignant, hilarious and awkward. Two young girls trap oranges in the thin, tense and twisting space between their bodies, drawing attention to the things that bind and separate us. A woman’s toes are repurposed as perfect holders for a bunch of small pickles. Two men in suits are held both together and apart by briefcases, their status as professionals both attractive and repellent.

In this way, Wurm interrupts the everyday movement of the street – our comings and goings – and injects a sense of humour, a sense of the absurd and even a sense of the poverty of our usual interactions (bumping into each other, asking for directions, making furtive eye contact) in public spaces. The human bodies, pressed into such strange, tenuous situations, become sculpture, a clever reworking of conceptual and performance art of the 1960s and 1970s. The casual, snapshot- quality of the photographs lends the events an air of both the spontaneous and the banal, a sly swipe at the aesthetics of street photography.

Attracted to the processes of “searching and failing,” certain themes crop up again and again in Wurm’s work: humour mixed with melancholy, public with private, aspiration with actuality, commercial with personal and ephemerality with permanence.

Erwin Wurm was born in Austria in 1954. Though his work has taken many forms, the common thread is the question of what constitutes sculpture. His work has been widely exhibited throughout Europe, North America and Australia. Upcoming solo shows in 2007 include Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Germany, CAPC Musée d’art contemporain, Bordeaux, France, and Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland. Wurm lives and works in Vienna and New York.

This installation is proudly sponsored by Concord Adex Developments Corporation as part of their Private Developer Public Art Program.

Installation co-presented with the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Curated by Sophie Hackett and Bonnie Rubenstein