Fischli and Weiss: The Way Things Go
July 9 to January 2, 2016
The Way Things Go (1987) documents an elaborate chain reaction that the Swiss art duo Peter Fischli (b. 1952) and David Weiss (1946 – 2012) set up in a Zurich warehouse using everyday items, such as tires, ladders, oil drums, trash bags and old shoes. Fire, water, chemical reactions and gravity provide a surprising range of triggers for the ingenious reactions which unfold over the course of 30 unforgettable minutes.
Fischli and Weiss have collaborated on projects in a range of media, including photography, film drawings and sculpture. With an eye for the absurd and the effects of chance, their installations bring fresh attention to the mundane world of objects which surround us.
In The Way Things Go, the incongruity between our investment as viewers and the futility of the actions unfolding before us lends a comic edge to the installation. As Guardian critic Jeremy Millar notes: “We might never have thought to find [meaning] among bin-bags and old shoes, but there it is, revealed in quick catastrophes and slow dissolves. A short film of things becomes a film about everything, how things come into being, and how, at a dim point somewhere between light and dark, they stop being that, too” (“Fischli and Weiss: the art of humour ,” The Guardian, June 5, 2012).
Over the years, The Way Things Go has become one of the most popular and widely screened art videos worldwide. Appealing at multiple levels, the film speaks to a world which often privileges mechanism over meaning. As Jeremy Millar concludes, “If history is ‘just one thing after another’, then The Way Things Go is truly a historic work.”
Organized by the MacKenzie Art Gallery with the support of Canada Council for the Arts, SaskCulture, Saskatchewan Arts Board, City of Regina, and University of Regina. The Way Things Go is distributed by Icarus Films.
About Peter Fischli and David Weiss:
From 1979 to 2012, the collaborative duo of Peter Fischli (b. 1952) and David Weiss (1946 – 2012) established themselves as a formidable force in the contemporary art world. Both born in Zurich, the pair met amid the city’s vibrant art scene in 1977 and quickly became friends, forming a short-lived rock band before setting their sights on sculpture, photography and video for which they would soon receive much acclaim. Sausage Series (Wurstserie, 1979) was their first joint venture, a group of ten photographs each depicting a small dramatic scene constructed primarily out of assorted sausages, cold meats and household objects. It was this combination of poignancy and absurdity that would come to characterize their body of work. Often placing everyday objects in unexpected situations, they transformed the mundane into something entirely different. As famed curator Hans Ulrich Obrist notes, Fischli and Weiss “created some of the most memorable work of the past three decades, demonstrating that irony and sincerity cannot exist without each other; that, indeed, there is no sincerity like irony.”
Solo exhibitions of Fischli and Weiss’s work have been organized by the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1992); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1996); Museu d’art contemporani de Barcelona (2000); Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands (2003–04); Museo Tamayo arte contemporáneo, Mexico City (2005); and Tate Modern, London (2006–07). In 1995 and 2003, they represented Switzerland in the Venice Biennale, receiving the Leone d’Oro award for their 2003 submission. Their work also appeared in Documenta, Kassel, West Germany (1987, 1997), and in Moving Pictures at the Guggenheim Museum (2002–03) and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (2003–04). In 2016, the Guggenheim Museum held the first New York survey of the duo’s influential career. Weiss died in 2012 in Zurich, where Fischli continues to live and work.
image: black and white still from The Way Things Go, 1987, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, courtesy of Icarus Films