Peter Fischli David Weiss
About the Exhibition
Traveling through an endless tunnel of changing light and color. A rat and bear go out on the town and through art and philosophy offer insights into the absurdities of the human condition. Everyday items teeter, precariously balanced. Energy passes by a whisker from one piece of junk to another, in a series of seemingly impromptu chain reactions. Airport scenes from across the globe float alongside a panoramic selection of this world's doings, big and small, rendered in ninety or so pieces of clay. Questions about life and the world that might occur to anyone appear and disappear, drifting ceaselessly through the air. In tiny black and white photos fairytale-like scenes have soft black contours. The tranquil, mundane everyday is suffused with wonder and chaos, tragedy and comedy, melancholy and nothingness.
Wielding a formidable armory of media from photography to sculpture to video and more with extraordinary flexibility, Peter Fischli and David Weiss focus intensely on familiar scenes and things, presenting divergent meanings and diversity of interpretation via a combination of meticulous planning and coincidence, throwing into relief the essence of the human condition in works shot through with irony and humor. We hope viewers will enjoy the strange wonder of Fischli/Weiss art, and their encyclopedic worlds suffused with an original, unconventional aesthetic.
Image：The Least Resistance 1980-81 film still camera: Jürg V. Walther
■Peter Fischli David Weiss "Ask the artists" – Q&A session
Date/time: Saturday 18 September, 15:00 – 16:00
Venue: Lecture Hall, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
Admission: No charge (with same-day ticket to the exhibition*)
Note: Numbered tickets will be distributed from 10:00 am that day before the Lecture Hall.
*please view exhibition in advance
■Gallery talks with the curator
Friday 22 October, 18:30 – 19:30
Saturday 27 November, 16:00 – 17:00
Thursday 23 December, 14:00 – 15:00
Meet at Lecture Hall, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
Admission: No charge (with same-day ticket to the exhibition*)
How to Work Better
How to Work Better, 1992
H149.8 x W103 cm
A ten-point manifesto aimed at improving attitudes to work, posted at an anonymous company. Liberated from their limited place and purpose, laid out on paper and pasted up, words such as ‘Learn to listen’ and ‘Smile’ take on a more universal feel and resonate with all who see them.
Kanalvideo at Palazzo Litta
[Reference photo]Kanalvideo, 1992
video, 60 min. 10 sec.
An endless tunnel seems to lead the viewer into the realm of the unconsciousness. A mysterious world with occasional flashes of red and yellow, and bathed in white light, this is in fact part of Zurich's sewer system.
video, 6 mins.
A kitten eagerly laps milk from a saucer. Suddenly it lifts its head and
stares straight ahead, but after a while returns to the saucer, and is
absorbed once again in the act of drinking the milk. An everyday scene is thus isolated and reproduced on a TV monitor placed on a stand.
Rat and Bear
The Least Resistance, 1980-81
16mm film, 30 mins.
camera: Jürg V. Walther
The ‘rat’ and ‘bear’ have been a feature of Fischli and Weiss's practice since the early days. In the first
video, The Least Resistance (1980-81) they plot to make a profit out of art but become enmeshed in a
murder case. Through various trials and tribulations, they begin to develop their own take on how society
really works. In the followup, The Right Way (1982-83), armed with intellect and ambition the pair explore
ways to survive in the natural world. The large rat and bear featured in these two works are now displayed in
glass cases. A small rat and bear meanwhile tour the likes of Baroque palaces and Japanese gardens. A rat
and bear hanging from the ceiling, floating in mid-air, vanish into the depths of smoke and technicolor lights.
In the videos of the early 1980s Fischli dressed as the rat, Weiss as the bear (or rather, panda). This rat and
bear, also the artists' alter egos, appear in the booklet, and as sculptures. A mini rat and bear appearing in
recent works seem to have come from another dimension to explore this world. The characters of Rat and
Bear gain added complexity with each work.
polyurethane, cloth, paint
H50 x W87 x D55 cm
“Grey Sculptures” are sculptures made
out of polyurethane. Furnished Apartment,
Tube and Equilibrium Organ are all
conceived with inner spaces in mind.
Animal is a creature of indeterminate
species, an abstract concept of an animal.
The holes in the body, for the eyes, ears
etc., are windows on its inner space.
The Secret of the Pyramids
(from “Equilibres”), 1984/85
Tires, chairs, shoes, brushes, forks,
kitchenware etc teeter precariously in a
variety of poses. Capturing in
photographs forms incapable of
remaining stationary, this series gives
them a permanence as “momentary
sculpture.” The sight of these arrangements held together unsteadily by gravity and balance plays
unexpectedly on the viewer's emotions. A rich narrative vein runs through the works, each of which has a
title such as The Secret of the Pyramids or Outlaws.
The Way Things Go / Making Things Go
The Way Things Go, 1986-87
16 mm film, 30 mins.
A video work inspired by the making of the “Equilibres” series. Rubbish bags, tires, ladders, plastic bottles
and other empty containers, balloons, chairs, a mop, simple wheeled contraptions: foam, smoke, fire etc.
triggered by gravity, centrifugal force, hydraulic force and chemical reactions pass energy from one item to
the next in falling-domino fashion. Any hint of human involvement has been excised from this narrative
woven solely by phenomena, in a film where individual pieces of junk seem to actively head in one direction
to pass on energy.
Making Things Go is a documentary capturing the meticulous and time-consuming process by which Fischli
and Weiss created each of the energy connections required for The Way Things Go.
Son et Lumière – le rayon vert
Son et Lumière – le rayon vert, 1990
flashlight, turntable, plastic cup, adhesive tape
H16 x W25 x D40 cm
A mechanical sculpture made by combining found objects: a turntable, a
disposable plastic cup, and a flashlight. Light shines on the cup on the
turntable, the rotation of which engenders moving light images that
change in unpredictable ways.
Untitled (Concrete Landscape)
concrete landscape, work in progress
One of the artists' explorations of ‘how
to represent landscapes.’ By receiving
rain and light this ‘landscape’ molded
from concrete and modified by hand
becomes in itself a landscape directly
reflecting natural phenomena.
H160 x W225 cm each
Photos of airports taken on Fischli and
Weiss's travels around the world since
1987, Airports is an ongoing project
reflecting the uniformity of airports
thanks to their common function even
in different cultures, tantalizing
glimpses of national identity gained
from onboard aircraft, light at night,
raindrops, and the splendid spectacle
of the airport through the window.
Suddenly this Overview
Popular opposites: inside and outside
(from Suddenly this Overview), 1981
Collection Emmanuel Hoffman Foundation
Fairytales, technology, modernization, sport, movies, The Bible, nature, entertainment, scenes from the
artists' private lives – Suddenly this Overview is a collection of clay sculptures recreating various events in
human history, and the history of the planet. The around ninety figures range from those rendered in
meticulous detail, to coarse, sketch-like pieces. As is implied by “The World We Live In” – the title originally
envisaged for the work – this panorama of interwoven happenings in the world arising out of the artists'
subjective viewpoint, with its assembly of events both large and small, questions what it means to be alive.
First unveiled in 1981 as an installation consisting of around 200 objects, a new version comprising about
90 was presented in 2006. This new version will be on show in Kanazawa.
Fischli and Weiss have been making objects from polyurethane since
the early 1980s, fabricating and coloring by hand precise copies of the
sort of items found in workshops and artists' studios to recreate the
original. The resulting installations composed of objects such as tools,
tires and household goods evoke the presence of those who live in
that place, or use those items. And while physically they do project a
powerful presence, their material qualities and untidy state also speak
of fragility and ephemerality.
At the Carpet Shop
(from “Sausage Photographs”), 1979
24 x 36 cm
Fiscli and Weiss's first collaborative effort. Using sausages and slices of various deli meats, cigarette butts
etc. in settings such as inside a refrigerator, a washbasin, a bed and bathtub, they constructed various
scenes: a fire, a mountain vista, a car accident, and historical events. The juxtaposition of the narrative
quality of this recreated world and the utilitarian nature of the materials employed says much about the
artists' eagerness to explore different modes of expression.
black and white photograph
10 x 15 cm each
Postcard size images depict flowers,
waves, locomotives, clowns, women,
food, landscapes, cities, villages,
space, pirates of the South Seas,
animals. By zooming in, changing to
black and white, or altering the
exposure, these images that at first
glance appear to be paintings are
found to be photographs reflecting a
different world to that of conventional images. Herein one can identify the artists' attempt to encompass
everything in the world via the technique of focusing on a single object, and to project, from visible
phenomena, hidden depths or the social psyche.
Untitled (Questions), 2003
Installation view at the 50th Venice Biennale (2003)
‘Who runs the city?’ ‘Where is the galaxy heading?’
‘Must we live with our own opinions?’ These and
other questions from the trivial and familiar to the
philosophical drift ceaselessly in the air. This
interrogative torrent, generated by a phalanx of
slide projectors vanishes and is replaced
simultaneously by new questions before the
viewer/reader has time to offer an answer. These
‘questions’ on subjects such as the world and the
human psyche appear in Order and Cleanliness (1981), a work actually presented as a booklet setting out the
new world order drawn up in diagram form by Rat and Bear in the final scene of the 1981 film The Least
Resistance. In the later Question Pot (Big) (1986), a large container molded from polyurethane, questions
were written all over the inside of the pot in spiral formation. In 2002 this was in turn became the book Will
Happiness Find Me? And still the questions come, more and more and more...
All descriptions by: Chieko Kitade
Translation from Japanese: Pamela Miki
All images: © The artists. Courtesy The artists; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich; Sprüth Magers Berlin/ London; Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
photograph © Walter Pfeiffer
Peter FISCHLI (1952-)
David WEISS (1946-)
Both born in Zurich and currently residing there.
Fischli and Weiss got to know each other in the late 1970s through the artist Urs Luthi, and the Kontiki bar then the nexus of Zurich's art scene. In 1979 they produced Sausage Photographs, a series using sausage, ham and sundry other small goods to reproduce everyday scenarios, presenting the photos at the exhibition “Saus und Braus” in 1980. In 1981 they produced the video The Least Resistance and booklet Order and Cleanliness, for which they dressed as a rat and a bear to expose the contradictions of the social system, and attempt to construct their own world order. Since then the artists have demonstrated an extraordinarily flexible command of various media in works focusing on the 'ordinary'. Their work, in which vast amounts of time are spent on each series or motif, mix the massive and the minute, the ordinary and extraordinary, reason and irrationality, order and disorder to offer new visions of the world. Untitled (Questions) presented at Venice in 2003 earned them a Golden Lion.
front: Animal, 1986
back/left: Equilibrium Organ, 1986
back/ right: Tube, 1986
Untitled (Concrete Landscape), 2010
Son et Lumière - Le rayon vert, 1990
front: Suddenly this Overview, 1981/ 2006
back/ above: Airports, 1987-
front: Rat and Bear Costumes, 1980/ 2004
back/ above: The Least Resistance, 1980-81
Installation view at "Peter Fischli David Weiss"
All images/ photograph: WATANABE Osamu
All the works in the photograph:
© The artists. Courtesy The artists; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich; Sprüth Magers Berlin/ London; Matthew Marks Gallery, New York