Not For Nothing

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One-Minute Sculptures


For my formal presentation I intend to research one-minute sculptures, with a focus on Erwin Wurm. I will also incorporate the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s music video “Can’t Stop” for that was my inspiration for the project.


One-minute sculptures, branching off from readymade art, can be made really fast, with everyday items, such as broomsticks, oranges and sweaters, in everyday places, ranging from a house to a street. The trick is to document these pieces because after a minute, they will usually be gone. Erwin Wurm is a respected artist in this field of art and he has created many one-minute sculptures, including “A shirt on a Hanger” and “From Size L to Size XXL,” that have left people smiling, wondering and wanting more. Some viewers, such as Alina Popa, are so intrigued by this work they make their own quick creations.
One-minute sculptures can happen anywhere at anytime combining sculpture, photography and performance. They also take into account gravity, weight, static equilibrium, stability, materiality, form and the parameters of time. This type of sculpture redefines the art into an “act,” instead of a fixed object. These sculptures are photographed or videotaped because they usually collapse after a minute. This art includes wit, awkwardness, enjoyment and embarrassment. It combines the body’s susceptibility and its amusing temporary stance, making the viewer smile and reflect because the piece usually has deeper meaning. It documents the success, the failure and the difficulty that characterize life. The piece continuously asks how we define a person standing-as an object or an occurrence. It measures the limits of the human body in comparison to the surroundings. Accessories are often provided to invite the viewer to become part of the sculpture and create their own. These sculptures deal with relationships-the relationship with objects part of everyday life and the relationship between object and pedestal. It also incorporates the act of gravity, the fixing of form and the exploitation of volume by increasing, decreasing or remodeling it. An example of increasing volume can be seen in Erwin Wurm’s “Fat Car,” where he “plump[ed] up an existing car with Styrofoam and fiberglass, which resulted in a pitiful, chubby version of the original sportsy model.”1
This genre branched off a form of art called “readymades.” Marcel Duchamp began the concept of readymade art to challenge what the world considered “art” but along the way he created a process that sped up the creation of sculptures. When Duchamp began putting his pieces together, “readymade” was the coined term for manufactured items. Duchamp defines readymade art as “an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.”2 Incorporated into readymade art is undisguised, slightly modified objects that are not typically considered art. Importance is placed upon the object by the amount given to it by the artist, making context a huge factor. Significant to traditional art forms but not readymade art is contemplation, composition and beauty. One-minute sculptures are not considered readymade; rather they are “constantly ready-to-be-made.”3
Materials used for these quick sculptures include everyday objects and places. Sculptors in this field have been known to use vegetables, chairs and cardboard boxes. Also used in previous works were brooms, boxes and bikes. The street, different homes and hotels rooms are a few examples of the locations of previous one-minute sculptures. A necessity for many of these sculptures is the human body, either incorporated into the piece or used as the “canvas” where things are attached.
These materials and locations have made successful one-minute sculptures from varying artists. Some examples are a man diving head first into a crate with his legs failing like a jack-in-the-box. Another example is of a person doing push-ups on four teacups or a man in a suit standing with two strands of asparagus stuck up his nose. A different type of sculpture is one that comes with set of instructions. The instructions are to be followed by the viewer, photographed and sent back to the artist to be signed. A simple drawing of a man, like in “A Shirt on a Hanger,” where the man is holding a hanger in his mouth, is another type of instruction. “Fabio Getting Dressed,” created in 1992, is based around the act of Fabio putting his entire wardrobe on. At the end of the period Fabio is wearing every article of clothing in his closet. This piece comments on homeless people and their need to wear their entire collection of clothing all the time as a means of carrying their belongings and as a means for warmth. Another piece is entitled “From Size L to Size XXL,” created in 1993. This piece includes easy-to-follow directions on how to gain two extra sizes in only eight days. It is designed like a recipe book, featuring huge amounts of calories and ways on how to minimize weight lose. By the time the viewer is done looking at this recipe book, he or she is envisioning the recently oversized person, often themselves.
Erwin Wurm, a major player in one-minute sculptures, was born in 1954 and now lives and works in Vienna. His one-minute sculptures are influenced by minimal and conceptual art. Beginning his work in the 1980s, Wurm started to “riff on [the conceptual traditions of the 1960s and ’70s] with his own brand of comic conceptualism.”4 Wurm’s sculptures vary in materials and subject matter, ranging from chairs to shampoo bottles. Some of his other pieces come with a set of instructions, either written or drawn. He constantly asks “at what point does something change from an action into a sculpture, from a sculpture into a photograph?”5
Erwin Wurm not only has single pieces that stand alone, but also has worked in series. One of his series, entitled “Instructions for Idleness,” was created in 2001. This series is a collection of photos and text showing the artist enacting directions taken from a slacker’s rulebook. This “rule-book,” includes statements like “stay in pajamas all day” and “be to lazy to argue.” Another one of Wurm’s series is “Instructions for Political Incorrectness.” This “how to book” gives commands to “spit in someone’s soup” and “steal a beggar’s money.” “European Dream” makes reference to the well-known ideal of the American Dream. This includes the life style and coincidences with current European Economic Union.
Although Erwin Wurm is the first name that comes to mind when one-minute sculpture is mentioned, there are many others that share his passion in redefining sculpture. These sculptors include Richard Serra, whose sculptures emphasize the weight and nature of the materials and Bruce Nauman, whose sculptures have a playful, mischievous manner to them. Other contributing sculptors are Gilbert and George, who use photography to document events, such as getting drunk off of gin, and Charles Ray. Ray’s work incorporates the surprise of an object that seems familiar yet is not and also a type of disruption of society’s balance of power, working in sculpture and photography. Charles Ray photographed himself as if part of minimalist sculptures, like in “Plank I and II” (1973). In these pieces, a flat timber pins his limp body up on a wall. These are not the only artists capable of one-minute sculptures; anyone can make one. Alina Popa made a one-minute sculpture using ping-pong balls pinched between her arms and her sides and in between her legs and put the picture up on her blog.
This type of sculpture is becoming more known in the art world, showing in various venues in Europe and more recently in the United States. Erwin Wurm, for example, has been featured in countless individual and group shows in places ranging from Vienna to Limogos. More shows featuring these marvels are featured at the Centre National de la Photographie, the Galleria d’Arte Moderna, and the ZKW Center for Art and Media. One-minute sculptures, inspired by Erwin Wurm, made a huge debut in the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s music video “Can’t Stop.” The sculptures made in this were florescent lights being carried on the singers’ backs, water bottles held between both arms and legs and buckets over a signer’s head, hands and feet. Another band member was walking around the room with a box over his body, while another had clothes hangers hanging from his mouth. Flea, one of the band members, said that Wurm’s picture of the man with a pencil up his nose was a huge inspiration for the video; they took this image and transformed it into a band member with pens in his ears.
My roommate, a music buff and an appreciator of art, introduced me to one-minute sculptures by showing me the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s music video. I found these works of art to be fascinating because the concepts and use of materials are so new to me. Since I started my BA degree in studio art, I have had the mind-set that if the artwork did not take an exceptional amount of time, it was not valid as great art. I would look at a quickly put together piece and think that the artist put little to no thought or time into preparing this piece while I spent countless hours on mine. This semester, Sculpture II, helped changed that mindset. I began learning that my theory was not only incorrect but also was proven completely invalid by these quick one-minute sculptures. Learning about these sculptures and Erwin Wurm has given me a new appreciation for a different form of art and inspired me to create my own. For my piece I asked people to pack what they would need for a vacation, but instead of putting everything in the carry-on bag, I asked that they put everything on and then stand in the carry-on bag. Sadly, I was met with much resistance from my friends and family but one day I hope to figure out a more effective way to reach the public and engage them in my artwork.
One-minute sculptures are becoming better known as demonstrated in their recent “show” in the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s music video “Can’t Stop” and multiple exhibitions throughout the art community. This art form redefines sculpture, incorporating awkwardness, enjoyment and embarrassment, but still makes people wonder if it is an occurrence or a fixed object. Many people are capable of making one-minute sculptures and as Erwin Wurm says, “Everything is possible…for a minute.”6

1 Walter Robinson, Erwin Wurm, Artnet, 2005, revised 2008,, 11 April 2008.
2Thomas Girst, Using Marcel Duchamp: The Concept of the Readymade in Post-War and Contemporary American Art, Histories and Theories of Intermedia, 2008, n.d., of.html, 13 April 2008.
3 Kathrin Herzog, Erwin Wurm – One Minute Sculptures – Fotos, Sculptures, Performance, Photographers’ Gallery, 2001, n.d.,, 11 April 2008.
4 Stephanie Cash, “Stand-up Artist,” Art in America, no. 12 (2003): 85.
5 One-Minute Sculptures, The Photographers’ Gallery, 2000, revised 2001,, 11 April 2008.
6 Kathrin Herzog, Erwin Wurm – One Minute Sculptures – Fotos, Sculptures, Performance.


Cash, Stephanie, “Stand-up Artist,” Art in America, no. 12 (2003): 85.

Erwin Wurm, Post Media, 2003, n.d.,, 12 April 2008.

Erwin Wurm: No 5 and No 8 Great Newport Street, Absolute Arts, 2000, revised 2001,, 12 April 2008.

Girst, Thomas, Using Marcel Duchamp: The Concept of the Readymade in Post-War and Contemporary American Art, Histories and Theories of Intermedia, 2008, n.d., of.html, 13 April 2008.

Herzog, Kathrin, Erwin Wurm – One Minute Sculptures – Fotos, Sculptures, Performance, Photographers’ Gallery, 2001, n.d.,, 11 April 2008.

Irvine, Karen, Camera/Action: Performance and Photography, Museum of Contemporary Photography, 2004, revised 2008, 04/10/cameraaction_pe.php+%22charles+ray%22+and+one+minute+sculpture&hl=e n&ct=clnk&cd=4&gl=us, 11 April 2008.

Obalk, Hector, The Unfindable Readymade, The Marcel Duchamp Studies Online Journal, 2000, n.d.,, 12 April 2008.

One-Minute Sculptures, The Photographers’ Gallery, 2000, revised 2001,, 11 April 2008.

Robinson, Walter, Erwin Wurm, Artnet, 2005, revised 2008,, 11 April 2008.

Wetterwald, Elisabeth, “Erwin Wurm: The Art of Doubting,” Parachute, no. 105 (2002): 64.