Fischli & Weiss

Heard of them? They’re the artists behind a film called The Way Things Go. I will explain but I’m supposed to be up the hill finishing a painting (it’s not going that well which is why I’m down here – I’m procrastinating…) so I’ll make this quick by quoting You Tube:

In 1987 Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss built a enormous, precarious structure 100 feet long out of common items. Using fire, water, gravity, and chemistry they create a mind-blowing chain reaction of physical and chemical interactions and precisely crafted chaos.

And while I was grabbing that I borrowed a teaser of the animation – about 4 minutes worth – the real thing goes for half an hour. (Yeah, yeah, I know about the Honda advert – these guys did it first.)

So why am I telling you about a 20+ year old video now? I first saw it 3 years ago and, quite simply, had never forgotten it. It was in class – I only saw it once. Grrr… This past year I’ve done pretty nothing but animation. (Now doing pretty much nothing but paint.) Then just a month ago I stumbled on a little book about the film – tell you about that in a minute – and for the hell of it went hunting. Sure enough, it’s now out on DVD and available from Amazon. I wasn’t sure if it would work in our clunky old DVD player but intrepid I am. And it does. Yes!

In the same package came a copy of a book put out by the Tate on F&W’s retrospective called Flowers & Questions. Cut to the point here – it’s a good book – lots of pictures interspersed between articles/critiques/reviews by different writers. OK, so a few of them are dull and academic, but most are an easy and interesting read. Each is followed by a bunch of pictures of the particular work they were talking about. It’s one of those books that you can dip into when you have a few minutes. Good with coffee.

The big surprise was that F&W have done so much other work using materials as varied as plaster, unfired clay, photos, more films and, best of all, sculptures of everyday objects made with polyurethane. The objects are convincingly real – imagine a workman’s bench in a small room in a gallery looking exactly like that – no didactic – yet everything in there is fake. People stick their head in to look and suffer the uncomfortable feeling that they’ve intruded on a someone’s workspace. A delightful twist on Brillo boxes… And craftsmanship ain’t always such a bad thing. I (and no doubt every other self-respecting sculptor), having seen this, am curious as to what the material actually is – a quick Google says there are lots of kinds of polyurethane.

The other book, the one that prompted all of this search, was The Way Things Go by Jeremy Millar, is OK but not as easy to get along with. It’s smaller but then it’s only looking at that one work. One for die-hard enthusiasts or fellow academia. Good selection of pictures of the the film though. And not too expensive – sooooo – if you have a parcel on the way maybe do F&W justice and read both.

Have fun, Amanda

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