Untitled, 1985

Photo: Courtesy of the artists

67 x 99 cm

Used on the cover of the catalogue[1] of their groundbreaking exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel in 1985, this photograph is a telling insight into the humor and crafty yet astute work of artist duo Fischli / Weiss. Peter Fischli and David Weiss worked together from 1979 until 2012 with Weiss’s untimely death. In their run of more than thirty years of collaborative artmaking they constantly explored materials, ideas, humor, wit, boundaries, and their sense of selves through mediums as diverse as photography, bookmaking, sculpture, drawing, as well as an extensive dedication to film as a way of recording and representing their (at times almost life as art) antics. 
This Untitled photograph also contains documentation of handmade figurative characters. It is an image that at first glance seems more like a holiday snapshot, a picture of a beautiful and potentially even kitsch flower arrangement comprised of flowers and various almost tropical fauna; upon closer examination, the viewer realizes, however, that this arrangement was in fact staged to look like an idyllic natural scene, and sees tiny clay figures frolicking around a spring situated between the primroses and plastic cups. Clay is a material the artists used several times, including a long-term series entitled Suddenly this Overview (1981/2006) which consisted of an “encyclopedic” attempt to portray—through quickly produced and almost childishly simple clay dioramas—everything in the universe. In this work the artists created scenes of everyday banalities like shopping in the supermarket and placed them next to events of great historical significance like the construction of the Pyramids in Egypt. This juxtaposition of opposites was a recurring theme that appears in many of their series; through these gestures and a perpetual dialogue between the “significant” and the “inconsequential” they commented on the role of hierarchy and attempted to subvert it. Throughout their practice they made both mockeries and homages to the commonplace moments of existence, often altering straight representations of this condition just enough and framing them in such a way that makes it visible in all of its beauty, glory, and incredibly dreadful banality. With this hybrid work we feel a brush of their deadpan touch. It is through this lens of humor, critique, and admiration that we can begin to peer inside the wacky world of Fischli / Weiss. (TBA21)

[1] Stiller Nachmittag und Ein ruheloses Universum. Zu den gemeinsamen Arbeiten von Peter Fischli und David Weiss. 2 booklets, exh. cat. Kunsthalle Basel, Groninger Museum (Zurich: Edition Patrick Frey), 1985.

PF: *1952 in Zurich, Switzerland | Living and working in Zurich, Switzerland
DW:: *1946 in Zurich, Switzerland I † 2012 Zurich, Switzerland