Fat convertible

Erwin WURM


Austria born 1954
Fat convertible 2019
Mixed media

Acclaimed for a maverick practice that combines sculpture, photography and performance art,
the Austrian artist Erwin Wurm employs a superficially humorous but ultimately serious approach
to social commentary. His method has been characterised as a ‘sheathing of the serious with the
slapstick’.

Most notably, his sculptures of ridiculously distended or bloated objects from everyday life – such
as the Fat Car and Fat House series – are intended as critiques of consumer culture and capitalist
excess. As the artist observes: ‘The car and the house, the two objects which l’ve made fat, were
always the most beloved objects of human beings – before they created the iPhone. It’s how we
address our well-being, our wealth, our coolness. It’s social status.’

Aside from the Fat Car and Fat House works, Wurm has installed, on different occasions and at
different civic locations, what appears to be an actual-sized but surrealistically ‘slumped’ yacht
teetering absurdly on the edge of a building’s roof as if lodged there in a flood or tempest. Another
installation, an upside house, again seemingly actual size, is poised in an equally precarious
position on a roof; while a truck whose body is bent mid-section at a sharp angle, is propped
against the side of a building. Such spectacles are ironic, implausible and yet curiously ‘real’.

Amongst the artist’s best known works are his One Minute Sculptures, a series of performance
works begun in 1997. In these performances, audience members engage in bizarre, notionally
demeaning activities under the artist’s instruction: such as inserting asparagus spears up their
nose or pencils in their ears, actions meant to evoke the contradictions, paradoxes and even the
tragedies of contemporary existence. Wurm’s One Minute Sculptures follow in the tradition of
influential German modernist Joseph Beuys in critiquing the very purpose and nature of sculpture.

In addition to cars and houses, Wurm has also made preposterously outsized garments that are
often presented on spindly legs or hung like banners in lofty spaces or galleries. In creating these
bloated or attenuated objects, the artist uses humour to capture our attention to encourage us, as
he says, ‘to look at things more carefully’ and thus discover a deeper meaning beneath the
superficial humour.



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