Peter Fischli + David Weiss

Peter Fischli + David Weiss

Peter Fischli and David Weiss have been collaborating since 1979 on a body of work that humorously celebrates the sheer banality of everyday existence. As contemporary flaneurs, they observe their world with bemused detachment, reveling in the mundane and turning every undertaking into a leisure activity. Their delight in the ordinary is given perfect form in their flower portraits—colorful, close-up shots of garden plants in bloom or various stages of decay. As in much of their conceptually driven practice, the images 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 is one of abundance and kaleidoscopic visual pleasure.

View + Discuss

Peter Fischli / David Weiss (Fischli: b. 1952, Weiss: b. 1946)
Untitled (Flowers), 1997–98
Portfolio of 111 inkjet prints
Edition 3/9
29 1/8 x 42 1/3 inches (74 x 107.5 cm) each
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Purchased with funds contributed by the International Director’s Council and Executive Committee Members, 99.5267

1. Describe what you see. What words would you use to describe the mood or feeling the photograph communicates? Why?

2. What do you think they found interesting about the subject matter?

3. How do you think the image was created?

4. The artists, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, have been collaborating to create their art since 1979. What does it mean to collaborate on something? Imagine you were the artists, tell us how you collaborated with another artist to create this piece.

5. After students have had the chance to speculate, describe the artists' process. Refer back to the image and have students describe how it illustrates the process.

Art Explorations

Using tracing paper or sheets of acetate, have students work in pairs and each create a drawing of a thematically related subject. Overlay the images one on top of the other to simulate the effect of a double exposure.

Create a classroom collaboration. Have students agree upon some common everyday object or subject thematically related such as food, artificial and/or live plants or flowers, pop culture, etc. Using disposable cameras, have them photograph the subjects in curious arrangements. Create an interesting display with photographs from each student. Consider how the colors, lines, shapes, and textures of the images will work together to create a strong and aesthetically pleasing overall group composition.

Ask groups of students to choose an ordinary object that they use regularly or find interesting and create a collaborative poem about it. Begin by brainstorming and listing words that describe what the object looks like (nouns), things that it does (verbs), and what moods and feelings it conveys (adjectives). Then have each student create a line or two for the poem, integrating words from the list. Compile the lines to create one poem.

Using a computer, digital camera, and digital imaging software program such as Adobe Photoshop, create the effect of a “double exposure” on the computer. Have students take pictures of colorful silk flowers or actual flowers and plants. Import two of their flower images as separate Layers into Adobe Photoshop using the following commands.

File > Import Image, and then Layer > New Layer.

Repeat with second image. Using the “opacity” function (a small slider bar located above the Layer Palette), students can play with the transparency of each layer to create a similar, dizzying effect of a double exposure.

Additional Resources

Armstrong, Elizabeth. Arthur Danto, and Boris Groys. Peter Fischli and David Weiss: In a Restless World. Walker Art Center, 1996.

Bossé, Laurence, and Boris Groys. Peter Fischli and David Weiss. Verlag der Buchhandlung Walter König: Mesée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1998.

“Collaboration Peter Fischli/David Weiss.” Parkett, 1988, pp. 20–87. Special issue with essays by Berhard Johannes Blume, Germano Celant, Bice Curinger, Patrick Frey, Karen Marta, Jeanne Silverthorne, and Sidra Stitch.

Sackler Center

This presentation, comprised of selected materials from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives, pays homage to the first Frank Lloyd Wright–designed structures in New York City.

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