Guggenheim Presents Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better – February 5–April 20, 2016 #FischliWeiss


Peter Fischli David Weiss

At the Carpet Shop (from Sausage Series), 1979

Chromogenic print, 24 x 36 cm

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Clinton and Della Walker Acquisition Fund, 1993

© 2015, Peter Fischli and David Weiss

(NEW YORK, NY—December 7, 2015)—From February 5 to April 20, 2016, the Solomon R. Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better,
the first comprehensive survey in a New York museum of the remarkable
33-year artistic partnership between Peter Fischli (b. 1952) and David
Weiss (1946–2012). Gathering more than three hundred sculptures,
photographs, slide projections, and videos, the presentation
encapsulates and culminates the dynamic collaboration between the Swiss
artists, bringing into focus the generative and incisive dialogue they
sustained over the course of their joint career. Through its
simultaneously witty and profound appropriation of cultural genres—from
low-budget Hollywood flicks and picture-postcard views to the art
historical trope of the readymade and the kind of amateur philosophy
found in self-help books—the work continues to probe our grasp of
reality and offer a deceptively casual meditation on how we perceive
everyday life. As contemporary alchemists, Fischli and Weiss transformed
the ordinary into something decisively not.

Guggenheim Museum presents

Initially planned during David Weiss’s lifetime, Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better
is organized by Nancy Spector, Jennifer and David Stockman Chief
Curator and Deputy Director, and Nat Trotman, Curator, Performance and
Media, in close collaboration with Peter Fischli.

Unfolding along the museum’s spiraling ramps and into one Tower
gallery, the exhibition departs from a traditional retrospective’s
chronological format. Instead, select bodies of work appear in dialogues
that span the breadth of Fischli and Weiss’s collaboration. In this
way, the presentation highlights compelling connections among different
series and underscores the conceptual coherence of the artists’
multiform practice.

The exhibition also focuses on the centrality of film and video to Fischli and Weiss’s practice,

with photographs, sculptures, and installations placed alongside moving-image works in order to

represent the full scope of their oeuvre.

Throughout the course of their partnership, Fischli and Weiss probed the idea of dualistic thinking.

Perhaps because they were a team of two involved in constant dialogue and debate, they consistently

interrogated Western culture’s reliance on contraries. In one way or another, everything they produced

together playfully unravels what the artists understood to be “popular opposites”—labor versus leisure,

fiction versus reality, kitsch versus beauty, and the banal versus the sublime. Through their sustained

investigation into the everyday, Fischli and Weiss undid false dichotomies with the conviction that

bewilderment might be a desirable state. The artists embodied this approach in their alter egos, Rat and

Bear, who, for all their differences (rats being ugly and ubiquitous while pandas are lovable and

endangered), appear as equal partners in their various misadventures. Rat and Bear surface throughout

Fischli and Weiss’s work in a range of forms, including appearances in the early films The Least

Resistance (1980–81) and The Right Way (1983); as “authors” of the artists’ book Order and Cleanliness

(1981); and as a sculpture, Rat and Bear (Sleeping) (2008).

Never ones to issue statements or dictate meaning, Fischli and Weiss avoided the authoritative voice of

the artist and acted instead as whimsical philosophers who pondered all questions, great and small. No

inquiry was too extraordinary or too trivial, whether metaphysical or empirical, as evinced by works such

as Large Question Pot (1984) and the series Question Projections (2000–2003), which features phrases

both fanciful (“Is it true that traces of aliens have been found in yogurt?”) and serious (“Is everything

meaningless?”). The artists aimed to confuse traditional hierarchies and value systems. Many of their

projects take the form of vast archives that resemble subjective encyclopedias, accumulated over

decades with little distinction made between the important and the mundane. The exhibition includes

slide-show presentations of postcardlike tourist views from Visible World (1986–2012) and Airports

(1987–2012) that dare us to admit their beauty. In Fotografías (2005), hand-painted signs from

amusement parks and carnivals are transformed into dozens of eerie small-format black-and-white

photographs. Suddenly This Overview (1981– ), a series of tiny clay sculptures that chronicle an

idiosyncratic world history, is installed on one of the Guggenheim’s ramps as a field of over 150

miniature tableaux. In the Aye Simon Reading Room, Untitled (Venice Work) (1995)—96 hours of realtime

footage shot largely in the artists’ native Zürich and including myriad scenes of labor and leisure—

serves as a meditation on what constitutes the everyday in this European city and beyond.

When not documenting the world around them, Fischli and Weiss played with signs and symbols for

that world. In their first project, Sausage Series (1979), the artists emulated vignettes from classical

paintings and popular culture in photographed compositions of luncheon meats and household items.

Subsequent series such as Rubber Sculptures (1986–88/2005–06) and Cars (1988) bring heightened

attention to the products that populate daily life. This impulse culminated in various polyurethane

installations (1991– ) that cannily subvert the Duchampian readymade with painstakingly hand-carved

copies of ordinary objects ranging from table lamps, cassette tapes, and pizza boxes to the paint cans,

wood scraps, and tools occupying the artists’ studio. These surrogates are meant not so much to

confuse as to give pause. They are simple reminders of a more complicated existence that become

holes in our perception, like blank spaces or cutouts. Unstitching the fabric of reality, Fischli and Weiss

consistently courted the implausible. They often spoke about their deliberate “misuse” of time and

materials. In the series of photographs titled Equilibres (A Quiet Afternoon) (1984–86) and their

renowned video The Way Things Go (1987), they recorded unlikely balancing acts and chemical

reactions that animated the most mundane of objects in ballets of utter precariousness. The artists

created systems doomed to fail and found delight in the entropic beauty of imminent collapse.

Concurrent Projects

To coincide with the Guggenheim Museum’s exhibition, two public projects in New York bring Fischli

and Weiss’s work to a wider audience. As part of the Midnight Moment program, Times Square Arts

and Times Square Advertising Coalition show Büsi (Kitty) (2001) every night at 11:57 pm throughout

the month of February 2016; the artists’ video of a cat drinking milk was first shown in Times Square in

2001. The Public Art Fund presents How to Work Better (1991), the artists’ text-based monument to

labor, as a wall mural in Lower Manhattan, marking the first time it has been shown outside its original

installation as a mural in Zürich. The Public Art Fund’s Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better is

on view from February 5 through May 1, 2016, at Houston and Mott Streets.

Exhibition Funders

Major support for the exhibition has been provided by Laurenz Foundation, Schaulager, Basel.

The Leadership Committee for Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better is gratefully

acknowledged for its support, with special thanks to Chairs Maja Oeri and Hans Bodenmann.

Additional support is provided by Matthew Marks; Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers; Galerie Eva

Presenhuber; Glenstone; Collection Ringier; Alfred Richterich; Walter A. Bechtler Foundation,

Switzerland; Ulla Dreyfus-Best; Gigi and Andrea Kracht; Arend and Brigitte Oetker; and Sylvie


Funding is also generously provided by ART MENTOR FOUNDATION LUCERNE, the Swiss Arts Council

Pro Helvetia, and New York State Council on the Arts.

Exhibition Tour

Following its New York presentation, Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better travels to Museo

Jumex in Mexico City, where it is on view from June 9 through September 11, 2016.

Exhibition Catalogue

Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue authored

by Nancy Spector and Nat Trotman, with contributions by Ann Goldstein, Isabelle Graw, John Kelsey,

and Anne Wheeler. The publication, a definitive account of Fischli and Weiss’s vital contribution to

contemporary art, features an in-depth examination of the artists’ collaboration, augmented by

hundreds of archival images, notes on process, and interview excerpts culled from their archives. The

catalogue is copublished with DelMonico Books, an imprint of Prestel Publishing. A hardcover edition

priced at $75 will be available at the museum store and online at

Education and Public Programs

Find details about the public programs presented in conjunction with Peter Fischli and David Weiss:

How to Work Better at Highlights include the following:

Artist Talk

Sunday, February 7, 4 pm

Peter Fischli in Conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist

As part of the Elaine Terner Cooper Education Fund Conversations with Contemporary Artists series,

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director of Exhibitions and Programmes, Serpentine Gallery, London, joins

Peter Fischli to discuss his 33-year collaboration with the late David Weiss. $15, $10 members, free for

students with RSVP. Tickets will be available at


How to Work Better

Date to be announced

In this half-day symposium, esteemed scholars, and curators come together to discuss Fischli and

Weiss’s polyvalent practice and reconsider their work’s relationships to architecture, cinema, internet

culture, performance, temporality, and other themes. The symposium is followed by a reception and

viewing of Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better. Ticket information will be announced in the


Multidisciplinary Program

It Takes Two

Wednesday, April 20, 7 pm–2 am

Why do creative minds gravitate toward one another? What is the unique result of creating in pairs?

Why is the trope of the comic-tragic duo so prevalent in film and literature? In this extended program,

the Guggenheim invites a wide range of speakers and performers from a variety of fields to address

these questions on the occasion of Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s retrospective. The program is

organized by Nancy Spector and Nat Trotman. Ticket information will be announced in the spring.

Film Screenings

The Least Resistance (1980–81) and The Right Way (1983)

Fridays–Wednesdays, February 5–April 20

11 am, 12:30 pm, 2 pm, and 3:30 pm

Two films by Peter Fischli and David Weiss follow Rat and Bear, the artists’ iconic alter egos, as they set

out to strike it rich in the Los Angeles art world (The Least Resistance, 1980–81, 29 min.) and wander

through a bucolic mountainside landscape (The Right Way, 1983, 55 min.). Free with museum


Curator’s Eye Tours

Free with museum admission.

Friday, February 12, 12 pm

Curator’s Eye Tour with Anne Wheeler, Assistant Curator

Friday, March 25, 12 pm

Curator’s Eye Tour with Nat Trotman, Curator, Performance and Media

This tour will be interpreted in American Sign Language.

Friday, April 8, 12 pm

Curator’s Eye Tour with Nancy Spector, Jennifer and David Stockman Chief Curator and Deputy


About the Artists

Peter Fischli (b. 1952) and David Weiss (1946–2012) began their 33-year collaboration in 1979. Resisting

any specific style, medium, or material, their work explores the poetics of banality—the sublimity of the

objects and events constituting everyday life. Indebted to Dada, Surrealism, Pop Art, and Conceptual

Art, their photographs, videos, slide projections, films, books, sculptures, and multimedia installations

rely on keen observation and uncanny wit. Solo exhibitions of their work have been organized by

Kunstmuseum Basel (1985); List Visual Arts Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,

Cambridge (1987); Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1992); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1996);

Museu d’art contemporani de Barcelona (2000); Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

(2003–04); Tate Modern, London (2006–07); and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía,

Madrid (2009), among others. Their work has also been featured in numerous group exhibitions,

including significant presentations at Documenta, Kassel, Germany (1987); Skulptur Projekte Münster

(1987 and 1997); the Venice Biennale (1988, 1995, 2003, and 2013); the Carnegie International,

Pittsburgh (1988 and 2008); the São Paulo Biennial (1989); and the Yokohama International Triennial

(2008). In 2003 Fischli and Weiss received the Leone d’Oro at the 50th Venice Biennale, and in 2006

they were awarded the Roswitha Haftmann Prize.

About the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

Founded in 1937, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is dedicated to promoting the

understanding and appreciation of art, primarily of the modern and contemporary periods, through

exhibitions, education programs, research initiatives, and publications. The Guggenheim network that

began in the 1970s when the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, was joined by the Peggy

Guggenheim Collection, Venice, has since expanded to include the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

(opened 1997), and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (currently in development). The Guggenheim

Foundation continues to forge international collaborations that celebrate contemporary art,

architecture, and design within and beyond the walls of the museum, including the Guggenheim UBS

MAP Global Art Initiative and The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative. More

information about the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation can be found at


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