Peter Fischli and David Weiss

Le Case D'Arte

A heart (Cuore), a fluted wax candle (Candela), a small wall (Muro), a piece of twisted and broken branch (Ramo), a dog’s dish (Ciotola per cani), some men’s toiletry items (Oggetti da toeletta), a truck (Carro), the landscape of an alpine valley with agricultural-industrial settlements (Paesaggio), a leather ottoman (Puf marocchino), a car (Macchina), a vase (Vaso), a small, posed, naked woman (Donna), a chalet (Casa), a crow (Uccello)—all of them black-rubber artifacts that represent, in the words of the artists, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, “the average life of Swiss man.” These sculptures, all from 1986–87, are the iconic fragments of a collective imagination that the Föhn—the hot wind that blows north of the Alps, which makes people crazy and causes buds to flower prematurely and larvae to emerge from their protective places—seems to have extracted and materialized from the apparently undifferentiated and tranquil magma of the Swiss soul.

Fischli and Weiss, two artists from Zurich who have worked together since 1979, do not imprint real signs on the world but instead open themselves up to receive the world. This passive stance is what gives their work—and other, similar current Western art—its revolutionary character. However, what they do should not be considered a late manifestation of Pop art. There is no mythology of the manufactured object here, nor any glorification of urban imagery. Nor does it arise out of a “revolt of the objects” esthetic, which runs through Modernism from its avant-garde beginnings to the deflationary propaganda of its post-Modern incarnations. Although they make use of real objects outside their original contexts, they are not interested in the juxtaposition of an object with a context that is not its own. In fact, these are simply castings from molds. The art of Fischli and Weiss is not contingent on the dictates of group poetics, or a programmatic ideology, or an assumption of sociological type. Their work finds its true meaning where all the senses brought into play collide—that territory of art which resists all types of ideological, historical, and critical colonization: the authentic individual act.

This collection of objects demonstrates this. Each object is the materialization of a particular mental image. Each object has its own dimensional scale, which is in keeping with the autonomy of the kitsch object in terms of its own model or referent. Thus, the vase is larger than the car, the crow larger than the house. But this is more than just a sampling of commonplace objects. By virtue of the crude material of which they are made, the undifferentiated color (or, rather, absence of color), and the incongruity of scale, they convey a mysterious solitude. Lined up on their pedestals, these objects are alone. There is no dialogue between them; they have no relationship to each other. They are lost in their solitude, as when the sun vanishes beyond the high alpine peaks just before dusk, and the landscape fills up with faded shadows that still hold, perhaps for just a bit longer, the heat of the day that is almost gone. A small wall, a branch, a truck, a house, a large black bird.

Pier Luigi Tazzi

Translated from the Italian by Meg Shore.