Erwin Wurm-Narrow House

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Born at Austria in 1954, Erwin Wurm came to China in July, 2010. He created “narrow house” and displayed it in 798 Art District in Beijing. It allows two to three people to enter at a time; therefore, you can see the waiting line in front of the house. Just like its’ name, Erwin Wurm compressed the whole house lateral. It seemed like we are in a thin giant country. The books, shelves, bed, and bathtub … are all narrow. Only the skinnier person can walk through, and the overweight person may get stuck.

The 20 meters long narrow house has been shrunk to one meter wide. This is a common European style house, a sharp slope of the brown roof sits on the top of white wall of the house. In Austria, Wurm’s parents had lived in this white house all their life until a few years before they died. The original house was about ten meters wide, but it was squeezed into one-tenth of the original and displayed in Beijing 798 Art District for several months.

In the narrow space of about 20 square meters, we can see that all furnishings in the living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and dining room have been very carefully reproduced in detail by the reduced scale.

Living room sofa and books on the book case.

Only one person at a time can go through the passage way.

The kitchen is fully equipped.       So is the bath room.

You will be dumbfounded by the set up of the rest room!

Slim and long bed in the bed room.

The women may be stunned by this narrow closet.

I have been pondering as to what Erwin Wurm wants to tell us through his art. He is a most humorous artist. He put a lot of effort into creating and building this narrow house, so visitors can enter into his art and become part of it. The feeling brought forth by entering this house, will then instigate our thinking and apply to our daily life.

Because the house is too narrow to accommodate a lot of things, we have no choice but to filter all the stuffs including furniture, decoration, and even clothes in order to choose the essentials to kept. If we live here long enough, it will help us to learn the lesson of “letting go”. Maybe the baggage we are carrying in both physical beings and spiritual realm that we are unable to put down and let go, will finally fall aside.

In the meantime, he is trying to remind us how narrow our mind is through this house. After entering this house, we are not only constrained by its space, but also have an uneasy, discomfort feeling physically. How we hope to move to a bigger house without this claustrophobic reaction.

On the other hand, lacking the direct feeling from our body and overlooking our intuition, our mind or thinking has been contained in this frame unconsciously. Sometimes, we become accustomed to it and it seems that this narrow box becomes our home, all the more we are reluctant to leave.

Entering this narrow house and leaving it, I have high expectations for myself that I too can get out of this box which has restrained me. Then I will not fail Wurm’s purpose for creating this one and only “narrow house” in the world.

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