December 03, 2020

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Austrian Pavilion: Brigitte Kowanz and Erwin Wurm to the Venice Biennale 2017

Austrian Pavilion: Brigitte Kowanz and Erwin Wurm to the Venice Biennale 2017

Christa Steinle, Commissioner of the Austrian Pavilion in 2017, is presenting Brigitte Kowanz and Erwin Wurm, two artistic positions who focus on examining and refining the concept of sculpture in the international art discourse.

With their oeuvres, Brigitte Kowanz and Erwin Wurm “who have both received the Grand Austrian State Prize for their extraordinary work “ operate at the intersection between sculpture and architecture. Both react to changes in our perception and experience of space brought about over the past two hundred years by machines, media and new materials.

Although the most famous phase of Wurm’s work is known as performative sculpture and Brigitte Kowanz’s works as light installations, thus causing them to appear to be worlds apart in terms of designation, they nevertheless work in the same sphere, i.e. on the expansion of the arts ushered in by the rejection of the image. Through the aid of her light installations, Brigitte Kowanz has immaterially redefined space and architecture. With his famous house paraphrases, from House Attack (2006) to Narrow House (2010), Erwin Wurm has transformed architecture into sculpture, consistently evolving the performative turn of sculpture with his One Minute Sculptures. Kowanz’s light objects and light spaces with their inherent writing and signs constitute an autonomous achievement for art. With their innovative and independent contributions, Kowanz and Wurm form part of an international movement within the spectrum of an extended concept of sculpture and space, as Christa Steinle comments on her aesthetic concept for the Austrian pavilion.

Brigitte Kowanz’s position in recent art history is a distinctive one. Since the 1980s, her work has centred on light as an artistic medium that she investigates in relation to space and in combination with signs, codes and language. She uses light as a means of transcending and adding precision in order to question the conventional concept of image and painting and to hone a new, integrated relation between work, space and viewer. In doing so, carrying on the tradition of reflection on the media, she concentrates on dealing with the fundamental parameters of art: visibility, perception and the production of meaning. Light makes everything visible, but remains invisible itself. Light determines places, but knows no place itself.

With his sculptures, Erwin Wurm makes a globally acknowledged autonomous contribution to an international trend: sculpture as a form of action. To begin with, Erwin Wurm reinterprets the classical criteria of sculpture “ volume, weight, stasis, gravity, form and mass.” Instead of the three-dimensional object on a plinth, Erwin Wurm focuses on the human being himself and his actions with everyday objects in unusual positions, capturing this minimal period of time in photographs. Photography and video become a medium of sculpture. With these famous One Minute Sculptures, the audience become participants in designing the sculpture and the sculpture becomes an open field of action. Taking a further step, Erwin Wurm offers the audience various instructions for making sculptures in the museum space, subversively encouraging the individual to take part in social action. By consistently expanding the concept of sculpture, Erwin Wurm demonstrates that he can find an answer to the moods and social conditions of our time in an intrinsically artistic manner – sometimes sublime, often philosophical in images and objects. Wurm’s concept of sculpture, that revolves around a wide range of materials and media, makes explicit reference to the traditions of the Neo-Avantgarde, in which provocation and venture always played a role.ale in 2004, among others. She has been consistently committed to promoting young artists, critically examining artistic patterns of thought and the art industry.

Top Image: Erwin Wurm Fat Convertible, 2005 Mixed Media Photo: Studio Erwin Wurm / Xavier Hufkens Gallery, Bruxelles, Belgium
Copyright: Bildrecht, Vienna 2017 / Brigitte Kowanz Morsealphabet (Morse Alphabet), 1998/2005 Objekt / Object Neon Durchmesser / Diameter 280 cm Photo: Matthias Herrmann Copyright: Bildrecht, Vienna 2017

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