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Erwin Wurm: I Love My Time, I Don't Like My Time

High and Low Culture

There are few artists in the world who have utilized the darkly comical potential of digital and performance art like Austrian-born Erwin Wurm. In his latest exhibition at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, "I Love My Time, I Don't Like My Time," a chronological range of Wurm's artistic output adorns the gallery in a zany display of the creative potential of time, mass, and material form. Wurm's exhibit includes experimental performance, photography, video installation, and text.

Wurm's work is primarily occupied with extending the dialogue of 1960s performance and conceptual art into more formal works of sculpture that toe the line between static and performance art. His work is full of tongue-in-cheek references to pop culture, literature, and cultural obsessions with propriety, place, and possessions. His satirical photo series, "How to Be Politically Incorrect," is an audacious series of images in which one person's space is blatantly violated by another's. The penetrative nature of invasion (i.e. a man's arm thrust down another man's pants or in his mouth) is conveyed with an incisive eye to place and context. Wurm chooses the bustling metropolis as his background for this series, and as the situations of his subjects increase in impropriety and improbability, his subjects remain impervious to the violations they inflict or undergo. The series was envisioned to address Wurm's reactions to a post 9/11 world, and even as we chuckle at the utter absurdity of the stories told by each photograph, they are chilling in their tacit examination of encroachment in both personal and political contexts.

Wurm's work is conceptually intricate but is infused with a humor and curiosity about people that make each of his pieces exciting and new. His "One Minute Sculptures" is a piece that amasses curious juxtapositions that emerged from Wurm wheedling his audiences into participating in the creation of temporary sculptures. By merging their bodies with a medley of commonplace objects stemming from Wurm's instructional drawings, his audiences partake in an uncanny magical process, with Wurm as the alchemist. Wurm presents us with split-second images that catch people in awkward contortions, featuring both objects that defy the laws of gravity and household items that become sites of wonder and transformation.

The piece de resistance of the exhibition is "Fat House/I Love My Time, I Don't Like My Time" (2003), the latest in Wurm's exploration of the macabre potential of sculpture and digital animation. "Fat House" is an impossibly swollen edifice made to stand as a life-sized house—the piece incorporates "I Love My Time, I Don't Like My Time" an animated video featuring Wurm's sculpture "Fat Car," a cartoonish, blubbery depiction of a car. The "cuteness" of the talking car makes it immediately approachable, but it's also a gimmick that defies spectators' expectations. The car burbles on monotonously, laying out an array of contradictions and isolated yearnings that are disconnected non-sequiturs symbolizing the confusion of our consumer culture.

Wurm is an expert at rendering the all-encompassing presence of both high and low culture as they get filtered into our environments through clichés, generalizations, and ideas. By liberating an object, like a sweater or a car, from its context and giving it new validity and meaning, Wurm charges his work with unfamiliar emotion and raises fundamental questions about culture, art, and the mundane "truths" we consistently take for granted.

The exhibition runs through January 9, 2005 at
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Gallery Hours
Thu–Sat 12–8 pm
Sun, Tue, Wed 12–5 pm
FREE the first Tuesday of every month, 12–5 pm

Gallery Admission
$6 General
$3 Seniors and Students
FREE for Center Members