Lugano bei Nacht, 1988/1989

Photo: Courtesy of the artists

120 x 180 cm

Fischli and Weiss's photograph of Lugano, the wealthy, attractive town in Italian Switzerland, is indistinguishable from the type of pictures one can see on the town's tourism website. David Fischli and Peter Weiss, the Swiss artists who have collaborated since 1979, have taken thousands of photographs on their travels since the mid 80s. In 2000, they presented 2800 of these images as transparencies on a vast light box, 22 metres long, entitled "Visible World". The sculpture resembled an encyclopedic picture library, covering such subjects as cities, jungles, deserts, airports, sunsets, pyramids, bridges, towers, tropical beaches and much else besides. Like picture library images, the transparencies lacked any apparent personal investment on the part of the artists.
Fischli and Weiss's practice embodies Baudelaire's interpretation of the flaneur, the modern, dandyish connoisseur of everyday life. But whereas Baudelaire's flaneurism was restricted to the streets of a single metropolis, like Paris, Fischli and Weiss extend this outlook to the entire world. While modern communications and jet travel have indeed made the world 'visible', this visibility isn't something we necessarily experience or comprehend. The way culture is mediated nowadays irons out difference. This is reflected in Fischli and Weiss's global panorama, which is seamless, without points of friction or intensity. Everything, whether apartment block or Eiffel Tower, garden or Alpine peek, is presented with the same detached disinterest. Conversely, in other works, the duo have devoted inordinate amounts of time to giving substance to the utterly banal, as with their superrealistic polyurethane replicas of tools and materials left over from the installation of exhibitions, and their transformation of existing footage of Zurich's sewage system into a hypnotic, elegiac journey of colour and light (Kanal Video, 1992). – Alex Farquharson

Peter Fischli: *1952 in Zurich, Switzerland | Living and working in Zurich, Switzerland
David Weiss: *1946 in Zurich, Switzerland I † 2012 Zurich, Switzerland