Press Release

Peter Fischli & David Weiss / Flowers & Questions

Tate Modern  Level 4 West
11 October 2006 – 14 January 2007

This is the first major retrospective of Swiss artists Peter Fischli (born 1952) and David Weiss (born 1946) to take place in the UK. The artists’ creative partnership began in the late 1970s and this exhibition spans nearly three decades of their collaborative practice bringing together more than twenty significant bodies of work. 

Fischli and Weiss’ conceptually-driven output covers a wide variety of forms including sculpture, photography, film, video, and installation art, and often involves a dialogue between opposites, such as order and chaos, work and leisure, the everyday and the sublime. A child-like spirit of discovery underlies their artistic ventures and they revel in transforming materials. Working project by project, they have broken with artistic convention, made use of commonplace materials and, among other things, created an extensive archive of popular images, all with characteristic wit and humour.

This exhibition features early sculptural projects and iconic films. In the series Suddenly this Overview (1981) the artists attempt to chronicle the history of the world by hand-modelling, in unfired clay, narrative scenes such as Mick Jagger and Brian Jones Going Home Satisfied After Composing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”. The tragi-comic super-8 movie, The Right Way (1982-3) portrays the artists dressed in Rat and Bear costumes as they fight for survival in the wilds of nature, and provides a commentary on the struggle for artistic success. In the slapstick film The Way Things Go (1986-7) objects such as shoes, teapots, rubber tyres, buckets and balloons become performers in a chain reaction propelled by explosions and collisions that unfolds in a carefully staged setting.

This exhibition also brings together both early photographic projects, such as Sausage Series (1971) and Quiet Afternoon (Equilibres) (1984) in which the artists used photography to document ephemeral sculptures, and later photographic series, in which the artists expand their repertoire to investigate the photographic medium itself, highlighting the prevalence of visual cliché in contemporary culture. These later works include the spectacular pictorial encyclopedia, Visible World (1987-2000), and the iconic series, Airports (1987-2006), in which the artists examine the aesthetic of the amateur photographer by creating deadpan photographs of tourist attractions and airports around the world. In the recent collection  Fotografias (2004-5), the artists have documented colourful painted motifs from fairgrounds and transformed them into snapshot-sized black and white prints.

Alongside these photographic series, the exhibition will present the artists painstakingly hand-crafted polyurethane sculptures and installations which simulate banal and functional objects from their studio such as dirty ashtrays, Styrofoam cups and boxes of light bulbs, creating a type of anthropology of everyday life.

The exhibition at Tate Modern is curated by Tate Modern’s Director, Vicente Todolí and Bice Curiger, Curator Kunsthaus Zürich, supported by Assistant Curator Tate, Juliet Bingham. It has been conceived in collaboration with Kunsthaus Zürich and will tour to Deichtorhallen Hamburg (16 November 2007 – 3 February 2008).It will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, with texts by thirty contributors including artists, commentators, writers and filmmakers, which will be edited by Bice Curiger and designed in Zürich, in close collaboration with the artists.