Peter Fischli and David Weiss (Swiss, born 1952 and 1946), A Restless Night, from A Quiet Afternoon, 1985, Chromogenic print, 11-7/8 x 8", © Peter Fischli and David Weiss / Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York.

Peter Fischli and David Weiss (Swiss, born 1952 and 1946), Mr. and Mrs. Pear with their New Dog, from A Quiet Afternoon, 1985, Chromogenic print, 11-7/8 x 8", © Peter Fischli and David Weiss / Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York.

Peter Fischli and David Weiss (Swiss, born 1952 and 1946), The Sedative, from A Quiet Afternoon, 1985, Chromogenic print, 11-7/8 x 8", © Peter Fischli and David Weiss / Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York.

In the Face of Categorization (An American Survey of Fischli and Weiss)

Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
Modern Wing
Bucksbaum Gallery (G188)
Stone Gallery (G186)
Peter Fischli David Weiss: Questions, The Sausage Photographs, and A Quiet Afternoon
February 3-April 17, 2011

Influenced by Dada, Surrealism, Pop, and Conceptual art, Fischli and Weiss's prolific production defies easy categorization. Though their art often involves a dialogue between opposites, such as order and chaos, work and leisure, or the everyday and the sublime, a fresh, childlike spirit of discovery forms a common denominator to their work. Fischli and Weiss revel in transforming materials and leading audiences to new perspectives on familiar objects and surroundings. Working project by project, the two have broken with artistic convention, made use of commonplace materials, and created an extensive archive of popular images, all with characteristic humor and an active avoidance of pretentiousness and affectation.

Lauded for their unmistakable wit and elevation of quotidian subjects, Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss have collaborated since 1979 in an exploration of the "poetics of banality" — the actions and objects of everyday life. The pair has worked in a range of media--including photography, video art, slide projection, film, books, sculptures, and mixed-media installations — and in 2006 received one of Europe's most coveted art awards, the Roswitha Haftmann Prize. The Art Institute of Chicago has now organized the first presentation of Fischli and Weiss's works in Chicago in more than two decades by bringing together three key pieces from the duo's extensive portfolio: the 15-channel slide installation, Questions (1981/2002-03), and two photography series, The Sausage Photographs (1979) and A Quiet Afternoon (1984-86), totaling 92 images. These three works represent early iconic investigations that encompass the major themes — humor, playfulness, and an interest in language and everyday objects — that have come to define Fischli and Weiss's career.

The Art Institute's presentation of Fischli and Weiss's works includes the 2003 Venice Biennale Golden Lion prize-winning Questions— an installation of more than 1,000 photographic slides of handwritten questions.

Each set of projected questions slowly dissolves into the next, ranging from the profound to the trivial. "Can I restore my innocence?" and "Why does the earth turn around once a day?" mingle with "Does a hidden tunnel lead directly to the kitchen?" and "Does a ghost drive my car around at night?," reflecting and mimicking the wonder and banality of everyday thought processes.

Included in this exhibition are also two early photographic projects: The Sausage Photographs and A Quiet Afternoon. Fischli and Weiss's first collaborative project, The Sausage Photographs from 1979, exemplifies their inventive and humorous use of everyday materials to create a compelling fictional world. Each photograph documents a dramatic scene composed using sausages, various cold meats, and common household goods. Reminiscent of a children's game, with its unbounded capacity for make-believe, the artists transform crumpled bedding into an Alpine landscape and slices of luncheon meat into patterned carpets. In The Accident , two sausage cars have collided in a narrow street lined with cardboard buildings while gawkers, in the form of cigarette butts, stare at the wreckage. The scene is extremely convincing, despite being made from such bizarre materials.

The later series, A Quiet Afternoon, showcases precariously balanced sculptures at what appears to be the exact moment before their collapse. This larger body of work features everyday items such as vegetables, kitchen utensils, tires, chairs, and tools piled in elaborate configurations that — for an instant, at least — appear stable. Some of these gravity-defying poses evoke amazement, while others provide a laugh. "We discovered that we could leave all formal decisions to equilibrium itself," Fischli has said of these sculptures. "There was apparently no way to do it 'better' or 'worse,' just 'correctly.'"

Peter Fischli David Weiss: Questions, The Sausage Photographs, and A Quiet Afternoon is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and jointly curated by Lisa Dorin, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, and Matthew Witkovsky, Chair and Curator of Photography. This exhibition is generously supported by the Stanley Thomas Johnson Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Maureen and Edward Byron Smith, Jr. Family Endowment for Exhibitions. Major financial assistance is provided by the Exhibitions Trust: Kenneth and Anne Griffin, Thomas and Margot Pritzker, the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation, Donna and Howard Stone, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Sullivan, and an anonymous donor.

Peter Fischli and David Weiss (Swiss, born 1952 and 1946), Questions (detail), 1981/2002–03, Slide projection, continuous loop, Jointly acquired by The Art Institute of Chicago through prior gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joel Starrels; Burt Kaplan Fund; through prior gift of Gould, Inc. and the Los Angeles museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by Acquisition and Collection Committee, 2008.208.

Peter Fischli and David Weiss (Swiss, born 1952 and 1946), Fashion Show, from The Sausage Photographs, 1979, Chromogenic print, 19-5/8 x 27 1/2", © Peter Fischli and David Weiss / Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York.

Peter Fischli and David Weiss (Swiss, born 1952 and 1946), In the Carpet Shop, from The Sausage Photographs, 1979, Chromogenic print, 19-5/8 x 27-1/2", © Peter Fischli and David Weiss / Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York.

Peter Fischli and David Weiss (Swiss, born 1952 and 1946), In the Mountains, from The Sausage Photographs, 1979, Chromogenic print, 19-5/8 x 27-1/2, © Peter Fischli and David Weiss / Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York.


Peter Fischli and David Weiss (Swiss, born 1952 and 1946), Natural Grace, from A Quiet Afternoon, 1985, Chromogenic print, 11-7/8 x 8", © Peter Fischli and David Weiss / Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York.

Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Untitled (Funghi 18), 1997/98, Inkjet print, 75 X 108,5 cm.

Peter Fischli and David Weiss's Corporate Report for the Ages

Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Flirt, Liebe USW, 1984, B/W Photograph, 40 x 30 cm.

Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Untitled (Zürich), Cibachrome, mounted, framed, 156 x 217 cm.

Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Busi, 2000, DVD, Edition 107/150.

Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Small Cupboard, 1987, Black rubber, 55 X 63,5 X 36 cm.


Monika Sprüth
Philomene Magers
Oranienburger Straße 18
+ 49 (0)30 / 2 88 84 03 0
Peter Fischli / David Weiss
Sonne, Mond und Sterne

November 28, 2008-January 31, 2009

Sonne, Mond und Sterne is a gallery-scale presentation of a project by Swiss Artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss which originated in book form as a commission by the Swiss media conglomerate Ringier AG to customise their annual report and turn it into a work of art.

The 2007 Ringier annual report consists of 40 pages of business data, and 800 pages of adverts. The adverts have been carefully selected and scanned by the artists from hundreds of newspapers and magazines that could be found at any newsstand in any part of the globalised marketplace. The adverts cover the whole spectrum of the lifestyle of the contemporary consumer, ranging from sport to travel, and from fashion to family life. The adverts are carefully grouped and each image is positioned opposite a purposefully chosen companion image, so that each double-page spread forms a kind of diptych, revealing through association or juxtaposition an aspect of our mass culture of consumption.

The Ringier annual report has the effect of a kind of visual encyclopaedia of late capitalism, a typology of the present which exists between sociological research and an aesthetic analysis of the everyday. The specific ordering of the adverts within the report, and their arrangement into instructive and often ambiguous tableaux, amounts to an impressive testament to the power of the modern economic system, and the ways in which goods and services define the modern self. Sonne, Mond und Sterne resists becoming a straightforward critique of consumerism, however; as Beatrix Ruf, Curator of the Kunsthaus Zurich, notes: “Fischli and Weiss paired up 800 different ads and put them in an order that allows many interpretations — but tells no story.”

For the new gallery manifestation of *Sonne, Mond und Sterne* at Monika Sprüth Philomene Magers Berlin, the adverts are arranged as offset prints on white paper, displayed on neutral, white painted tables and in the same order as in the catalogue. The experience of exploring Sonne, Mond und Sterne through the gallery space rather than in published form reveals different kinds of linearity to the visual story of modern life that is being told, and emphasises the encyclopaedic nature of the work. The work encompasses in 800 images something approaching the entirety of contemporary human experience; the title Sonne, Mond und Sterne, meaning Sun, Moon and Stars, refers to a nursery rhyme and is concerned with the naming of things, and the process of identifying and classifying each object and experience in existence.

This fascination with comprehending the everyday has been a continuous motif in the work of Fischli and Weiss. Their work Sichtbare Welt (1987-2000), a vast archive of nearly 3,000 photographs of the everyday and commonly observed, similarly revealed a concern to re-evaluate our assumptions about the world around us and was also presented in a variety of ways, including an artist’s book, a video installation and an installation of images on fifteen light tables. Each manifestation of Fischli and Weiss’s monumental documentary artworks offers different ways of accessing and experiencing the images collated; the gallery experience of ‘Sonne, Mond und Sterne’ presents a specifically powerful and unique opportunity to identify suggestive connections and relationships between the assembled adverts by physically navigating the work and constructing shifting maps of meaning through it.

Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Sonne Mond und Strne ,2008.

Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Untitled (Blumen 1/45), 1997/1998, Inkjet print, 75 X 108,5 cm.

Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Filmstill aus Der geringste Widerstand, 1980/81 Kamera: Jürg V. Walther © 2008 Peter Fischli / David Weiss.

Fischli's and Weiss's 30 Years of Enigmatic and Multiform Practice

Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Siedlungen, Agglomeration, 1993 Fotografie, © 2008 Peter Fischli / David Weiss.

Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Filmstill aus Der Lauf der Dinge, 1986/87, Kamera: Pio Corradi, © 2008 Peter Fischli / David Weiss.

Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Fragen, 1981-2003, Dia-Projektion, gross Installationsansicht, Biennale Venedig, 2003, © 2008 Peter Fischli / David Weiss.

Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Natürliche Grazie (Aus der Serie: Equilibre), 1984 Fotografie, © 2008 Peter Fischli / David Weiss.


Deichtorhallen Hamburg
Deichtorstrasse 1-2
+ 49 (0) 40-321030

Peter Fischli/David Weiss, Questions & Flowers – Retrospective
April 18-August 31, 2008

Deichtorhallen Hamburg presents Germany’s first retrospective of works by contemporary artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss. The show, in collaboration with Tate Modern, London, and Kunsthaus Zurich is called Questions & Flowers. Organised with the artists’ support, it boasts the most comprehensive overview to date of an oeuvre as varied as it is enigmatic. Comprising sculptures, photographs, films and videos, the work of Fischli/Weiss resists classification.

Fischli (born 1952) and Weiss (born 1946) have been collaborating since 1979, and have contributed significantly to the international renown enjoyed by contemporary Swiss art. They focus on unspectacular, everyday things, the ostensibly banal. Their regard is deliberately uncynical as they usher us into the grey areas of our functionalist world. In their first joint creation, The Sausage Photographs (1979), which has since come to enjoy considerable popularity, the playfully experimental tendency of their work is already evident, in the form of an anti-heroic artistic programme unafraid to be humorous. This is art that has over the past decades contributed to the serious debates about a post-avant-garde while at the same time managing to appeal to a broad public — as was glowingly confirmed at recent shows in London and Paris.

All Key Groups of Works Early in what was to become a sustained collaboration, Fischli / Weiss made two films, The Least Resistance (1980/81) and The Right Way (1982/83), in which the artists, disguised as a rat and a bear, explore the world. Manifest in both works is that same inclination to universalism and ironic empiricism that would make itself felt in Suddenly this Overview (1981), a magisterial assemblage comprising hundreds of small, unfired clay figures. In that work the artists capture moments of world history, and, by slyly altering their perspective, seem to have knocked the whole of historiography out of kilter. The resultant panorama view of the world is subjective even as it transcends individualism. It does not shy away from taking on deeply rooted clichés, which in the hands of Fischli/Weiss mutate into something like an index of veracity. One of the disarming Questions posed by a group of works by that name, created over the course of decades, asks, Can Truth get away with everything? In addition to Questions, the ambitious Visible World (1987-2000) will be given considerable scope in the exhibition, in view of the project’s role in the development of the popular series Airports, Flowers, and Mushrooms.

World of Objects Fischli and Weiss took on the world of objects soon after beginning their work together, using kneading, carving and casting to create sculptures from unusually ordinary material. They were interested in these substances’ capacity for transformation, as demonstrated for instance by the terrifying dimensions taken on by black rubber. Featuring such items as a giant rhizome and a minimalist cupboard, as well as animals of an unimaginable blackness, the show testifies to the mute absorptive energy of the material. With objects carved out of polyurethane, meanwhile, such as tools, bottles and utensils, Fischli / Weiss confront the sceptical viewer with the quotidian life of the museum. In this lofty ceremonial context, their imitations of everyday objects take on a role of "reverse readymades" — perfect imitations built by painstakingly mimetic manual labour, with which we are familiar from the annals of art history.

World Wonders, as Discovered by Two Meta-Tourists The work of Fischli and Weiss uses surprise, the technique of détournement, and thus acknowledges the uses of enchantment, as if to provide an antidote for a «disenchanted world». For decades now they have been deploying their camera to tease out beauty, whether as globetrotting meta-tourists or from the perspective of the snails and the bees. The Zurich exhibition will feature «Visible World» as an illuminated viewing table some 30 metres in length, along which 3’000 pictures have been arrayed.

New Cinematic Material and Other Firsts
The retrospective was not organised chronologically, and in this it is true to the spirit of the oeuvre as a whole, which is composed of many larger and smaller groups of works as well as partially interlocking series, all developed over a long period. Considering this genealogy, the artists’ perennially successful film The Way Things Go (1986/87) seems, with its chain reactions, like an ironic commentary on an excessively narrow-minded conception of an artist’s career, with its compulsive, mercilessly linear conformity. Connoisseurs of the duo’s work will also find things to discover at the show. For instance, the artists’ long-time friend, the former art critic Patrick Frey, used a video camera to document certain of the elaborate tests for their 16mm film comprised of scurrilous physical reactions; the material has been reviewed and edited for the exhibition. The film grants viewers more than just a glimpse backstage: it is also an insistent exposé of the half-serious, half-comic foundation of the Fischli/Weiss project, a dream-like search for meaning in meaninglessness.

This is the basis of their claim to a place in art history. And 30 years after the first apparence of Fischli/Weiss, they seem to have reached a new acme. In 2006 the duo won the Roswitha Haftmann Prize, Europe’s best-endowed award for contemporary art, and thus added a further laurel wreath to a career featuring contributions to the documenta and Biennale as well as more recent curatorial work. With its presentation of Questions & Flowers, Kunsthaus Zürich invites visitors into the world of two artists whose intention has always been to share that world with others.

Peter Fischli / David Weiss,Popular Opposites: Theory and Practice from Suddenly This Overview (1981) by Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Unfired Clay [Image: Fischli and Weiss].

Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Mick Jagger und Brian Jones befriedigt auf dem Heimweg, nachdem sie 'I Can't Get No Satisfaction', komponiert haben, aus der Serie Plötzlich diese Übersicht, 1981 Ungebrannter Ton © 2008 Peter Fischli / David Weiss.

Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Gegenstände vom Floss, 1982 Geschnitzte und bemalte Polyurethan-Objekte © 2008 Peter Fischli / David Weiss.