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If you have ever experienced one of Austrian artist Erwin Wurm’s chubby vehicles or spatially confused houses in person, you have likely wondered about the vessels practicality or functionality. Concurrent to the 2011 Venice Biennale, Wurm showed his work, “Narrow House,” at the Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti: a 7 x 1.3 x 16 meter-long home situated in a picturesque setting alongside Venice’s Grand Canal. Household appliances, furniture, and photographs on the walls are shrunken down to fit into Wurm’s dollhouse-like space. Simply walking through this structure proved challenging, and the idea of living in the impossibly cramped environment was probably considered by few.
This summer, the Public Art Fund has turned one of Wurm’s bloated and seemingly unusable cars in to a fully-functioning hot dog truck that will serve free hot dogs throughout the summer in Brooklyn Bridge Park, a key location for the organization that recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. Though it is not Wurm’s first time turning a car into a food truck, this is a first for him in the United States. In 2015, he created a food truck alongside his solo exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, where he served currywurst sausages from his meaty Volkswagen Microbus. For its Brooklyn iteration, Wurm discarded the German delicacy for an American summer classic: all-beef hotdogs (with ketchup and mustard, if you so choose).
Wurm’s plump orange van connects many of the artist’s interests, namely humor and the materiality of everyday objects. “Hot Dog Bus encourages us to rethink food and art as we know it by creating a generous and amusing, yet thoughtful experience for the public,” notes Public Art Fund Associate Curator, Daniel S. Palmer. “Wurm transformed this vintage Volkswagen Microbus as a part of his Fat Car series, distorting everyday objects into bloated anthropomorphic forms. At first it seems playful, but Wurm’s absurd food truck creates a paradoxical tension and expresses a wry observation of our culture’s tendency toward excess.”
Hot Dog Bus also connects to the artist’s equally important performance work. Wurm rose to prominence in the mid 1990s for his “One Minute Sculptures” series, which he created by providing actors with different household objects, like chairs, buckets, foods, or items found on a desk, to use to create temporary sculptures with their bodies. These absurd moments became memorialized with a photograph by the artist—who sometimes appeared as well, covered in spaghetti or balancing a chair on his face.
The creative agency Wurm provides to the subjects in his “One Minute Sculptures” is given to the participants of Hot Dog Bus, who each transform their bodies by eating hot dogs however they’d like. Wurm is fascinated with gluttony and how humans transform their physical appearance by gaining or losing weight, and this work bridges many of his artistic curiosities and invites the public to help further his research. Each visitor is limited to one hot dog per-day, so hopefully the bodily transformation won’t be too noticeable.
According to Public Art Fund, the project was conceived of to explore notions of consumption, consumerism, and the ideology behind what constitutes a sculpture—all lofty goals that this project attains with ease. What is most compelling about this work, though, is how well it connects to all types of people: art world insiders or someone who might not know anything about contemporary art engage with this work in a similar way. And though not everyone considers themselves an artist or a performer, this project just might make you rethink what defines an artist, and if you might be a performance artist yourself.