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‘One Minute Sculptures’ Invade the Schindler House
New York Times

By Jori Finkel

 

In the participatory vein of Yoko Ono’s instruction pieces but decidedly less dreamy, Erwin Wurm’s “One Minute Sculptures” are blueprints for visitors to enact their own short performances, using directions and household props — a bucket, board, shoe or sweater, for instance — provided by this Vienna-based artist. For nearly two decades he has been staging these so-called sculptures mainly in galleries and museums, where the absurdity of placing a bucket on one’s head disrupts the rite of fine art consumption. Now he is bringing the series to the MAK Center for Art and Architecture here, with an exhibition in its historic Schindler home from Thursday through March 27.

 


“What I like here is the minimal, nearly Japanese structure,” Mr. Wurm said on Tuesday during installation, inside the famed 1922 Los Angeles house that the Austrian émigré Rudolph Schindler designed to live in with his wife and one other couple. “He was escaping a powerful social structure in Austria, and my work also deals with questions of freedom: freedom of choice, free will, economic dependence,” he added.

 


A few minutes later, Mr. Wurm followed his own instructions and, without cracking a smile, balanced a cheap white running shoe on his head as if subject to some ineluctable law of physics. For a nearby piece, the instructions — handwritten on a pedestal alongside a tiny inked illustration — direct visitors to climb into a sweater, putting both legs in one arm. In another, two people are asked to hold a wooden plank between them using their torsos, but not their arms. The title of the piece, “The North-South Question,” hints at issues of global interdependence.

 


Mr. Wurm has previously invited visitors to take photographs of themselves during the activities, which he signs and returns for a fee, but he found too many people were selling these authorized artworks on eBay. He said he intended to resume this practice briefly in London for a Feb. 22 event at Tate Modern, where he is part of a group show on performance and photography. This month he also has a show at Thaddaeus Ropac gallery in Paris featuring some surreal, furniture-like sculptures.

 


He began making the “One Minute Sculptures” in 1997 and has no plans to retire the series — or title — anytime soon. “One minute is just a synonym for short,” he offered. “It could be 30 seconds, or 10 seconds. It was my way of trying to create a brand.”