Peter Fischli David Weiss

2010.9.18(Sat.) - 2010.12.25(Sat.)



2010.9.18(Sat.) - 2010.12.25(Sat.)
10:00 - 18:00 (until 20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays)


21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa


Mondays, Sep 21, Oct 12, and Nov 24 (Open on Sep 20, Oct 11, and Nov 22)


on the day
General : ¥1,000
College students : ¥800
Elem/ JH/ HS : ¥400
65 and older : ¥800

General : ¥800
College students : ¥600
Elem/ JH/ HS : ¥300

For More Information:

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
Phone: +81-76-220-2800
Facsimile: +81-76-220-2802

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 

Related Projects

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*)
Capacity: 70
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*)
Language: Japanese

Works in the Exhibition

  • How to Work Better, 1992
    H149.8 x W103 cm

    How to Work Better

    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.

  • [Reference photo]Kanalvideo, 1992
    video, 60 min. 10 sec.
    video still

    Kanalvideo at Palazzo Litta

    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.

  • Büsi, 2001
    video, 6 mins.
    video still


    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.

  • The Least Resistance, 1980-81
    16mm film, 30 mins.
    film still
    camera: Jürg V. Walther

    Rat and Bear

    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.

  • Animal, 1986
    polyurethane, cloth, paint
    H50 x W87 x D55 cm

    Grey Sculptures

    “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, 1986-87
    16 mm film, 30 mins.
    film still

    The Way Things Go / Making Things Go

    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, 1990
    flashlight, turntable, plastic cup, adhesive tape
    H16 x W25 x D40 cm

    Son et Lumière – le rayon vert

    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.

  • [Reference photo]
    concrete landscape, work in progress

    Untitled (Concrete Landscape)

    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.

  • Airports, 1987-
    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.

  • [Reference photo]
    Popular opposites: inside and outside
    (from Suddenly this Overview), 1981
    unfired clay
    Collection Emmanuel Hoffman Foundation

    Suddenly this Overview

    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.

  • [Reference photo]

    Polyurethane Objects

    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
    color photograph,
    24 x 36 cm

    Sausage Photographs

    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.

  • Fotografías, 2004/05
    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.

  • [Reference photo]
    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
    . 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

Artist Profile

  • 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.



Organized by:

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (Kanazawa Art Promotion and Development Foundation)

Co-organized by:

The Yomiuri Shimbun Hokuriku Branch,
The Japan Association of Art Museums

Patronized by:

Embassy of Switzerland in Japan

Grants from:

the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia

Supported by:

Lion Corporation, SHIMIZU CORPORATION, Dai Nippon Printing., Ltd.

In Cooperation with:

Lufthansa Cargo AG, Katolec Corporation, NEC Display Solutions, Ltd., Ufer! Art Documentary