High wire acts make me so nervous that
I can't pretend to enjoy them. Not even simple tightrope walkers. I
never thought the of the Flying Wallendas as either artists or
athletes. I thought they were lunatics.
On the other hand, I love a good
pratfall. To me, a banana peel is the birth of comedy.
This brings us to the Swiss artist duo
Peter Fischli and David Weiss.
The Dallas Museum of Art has recently
purchased all 82 of the Fischli/Weiss Equilbres, photographs of
improbable sculptures composed of everything from chairs and lamps to
spoons and sausages, all stuck in precarious balance and destined to
collapse shortly after the picture is taken. (I can hear them in the
studio: “Peter, take the picture! Take the picture!” “David,
the camera is jammed! Oh, no!”)
For thirty years these two have been
showing us the world as it is, whether photographing the tarmac of
major airports or creating landscapes of thinly sliced wurst on their
beds. They have recast cabinets and their dog's food dish in black
rubber and left a well-manicured garden in Munster to grow wild for a
year. Most famously they created the sublime, Rube Goldergian film
The Way Things Go, also owned by the DMA The film chronicles a
series of physical and chemical reactions that set in motion
everything from rubber tires to oil drums in a slow motion parade of
destruction and creation across the studio floor. When the DMA first
showed the film, I read that it foretold the end of civilization as
we know it. I guess I was wrong when I mistakenly described it in
print as “The Feel Good Movie of the Year.”
In the Equilibres. wooden chairs and
car tires are suspended in doorways. Water glasses, spoons and
sausages maintain their delicate balance on the kitchen table. Some
scenes have dramatic, German Expressionist lighting as though we were
in Frankenstein's laboratory. Others appear to demonstrate what
happens when ten-year olds are left unsupervised in the garage.
Peter Fischli and David Weiss are among
the perfect artists alive. They have chosen to live their lives in
such a way that works of art are the inevitable result.