Peter Fischli / David Weiss
Peter Fischli and David Weiss collaborated from 1979 to 2012 on a body of work that celebrates—with great humor and intelligence—the sheer banality of everyday existence. As contemporary flaneurs, they observed their world with bemused detachment, reveling in the mundane and turning every undertaking into a leisure activity. Their earliest projects lampooned the seriousness of high art: for Sausage Series (Wurstserie, 1979), they playfully photographed curious arrangements of sausages and luncheon meats to emulate the tableaux of genre paintings. The iconic themes of Western culture are parodied in a 1981 ensemble of 250 roughly hewn clay figurines representing such extraordinary events as Anna O Dreaming the First Dream Interpreted by Freud; Marco Polo Showing the Italians Spaghetti, Brought Back from China; and For the First Time, Mick Jagger and Brian Jones Going Home Satisfied After Composing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” By the end of the 1980s, the duo had expanded their repertoire to embrace an iconography of the incidental, creating deadpan photographs of kitsch tourist attractions and airports around the world. For their contribution to the 1995 Venice Biennale, at which they represented Switzerland, Fischli/Weiss exhibited 96 hours of video on 12 monitors that documented what they called “concentrated daydreaming”—real-time glimpses into daily life in Zurich: a mountain sunrise, a restaurant chef in his kitchen, sanitation workers, a bicycle race, and so on.
Fischli and Weiss’s delight in the ordinary is given perfect form in their flower portraits—dazzlingly colorful, close-up shots of myriad garden plants in bloom or various stages of decay. As in all the previous work in their conceptually driven practice, the flowers undermine conventional distinctions between high and low art—a culturally enforced contrast the artists once derided in a clay sculpture of two dachshunds, one standing on its hind legs, the other on all fours. Fashioned in the spirit of amateur photography in both subject and style, the flower portraits employ the technique of double exposure to achieve dizzying layered effects. The process allowed the artists to exploit their collaborative approach: one would shoot an entire roll of film in a suburban rose garden; the other would rewind it and then shoot the same roll in a park in Zurich. Deliberately decorative, these photographs push the limits of acceptability in Conceptual art. The cumulative effect of 111 different pictures, which can be installed in a room like wallpaper, glimpsed image by image as in a print portfolio, or seen singularly as a framed photograph, is one of abundance and kaleidoscopic visual pleasure.