Fischli/Weiss | New York Sun

Jun 14 2007

June 14, 2007

FISCHLI/WEISS: Books, Editions and the Like
Swiss Institute

Fischli/Weiss is a prominent Switzerland-based collaborative team comprised of Peter Fischli and David Weiss. Fischli/Weiss’s humor and élan about the very process of being artists — European artists in particular — is at the forefront of their practice. They have explored and questioned this subject in performances as well as in videos, sculptures, installations, and conceptually-based photographic projects for almost 30 years.

A retrospective of their prodigious and prolific career now underway at Kunsthaus Zürich prompted two satellite shows here in New York. Photographs from the series “Equilibres” (1984–87) are on view at Matthew Marks Gallery, while extensive archival material can be seen in “Books, Editions and the Like” at the Swiss Institute in SoHo.

From the beginning, Messrs. Fischli and Weiss have given much thought to the archive as form of conceptual art in itself; and so, logically enough, their own artistic archive dovetails nicely with the retrospective theme. “Books, Editions and the Like” at the Swiss Institute is a good place to begin for viewers who are unacquainted with the pair’s contrary and inventive sensibility. Numerous horizontal cases stocked with materials related to specific projects are displayed, along with exhibition posters dating from the 1980s to the 1990s. The latter are arranged casually against the walls.

In addition, three of Fischli/- Weiss’s most notable videos show continually. In the most famous of these, “Der Lauf der Dinge” (The Way Things Go) from 1987, the camera studiously follows the perpetual motion of household materials whose dynamic, shifting equilibriums demonstrate the flows and energies of physics and chemistry. Dryly comic, it’s indebted to Dadaists, and perhaps even to the patent office in Bern, Switzerland, where Einstein got his start at the dawn of the Dada heyday. This video, in addition to “things,” sets the mind in motion.

Two more recent videos, “Kitty,” from 2001, and “Hund” (Dog), from 2003, observe the creatures’ attention and desire in close-up format. Notably, Fischli/Weiss’s work reveals an intuitive affinity with animals that is perhaps rooted in European folk traditions and pagan culture. In a videotaped performance from 1983 entitled “The Right Way,” the artists wore costumes of a rat and a bear while discussing art in various worldwide locations.

“Books, Editions and the Like” until July 14 (495 Broadway, third floor, between Spring and Broome streets, 212-925-2035); “Equilibres” until June 20 (523 W. 24th St., between Tenth and Eleventh avenues, 212-243-0200).