Fischli and Weiss often place particular focus on the seemingly banal. Their work distances itself from the materials and practices typical of contemporary art, turning instead to such distinctly non-professional artistic techniques as hobby sculpture, tourist photography, or recreational crafts and tinkering. One example is their Sausage Series (1979), for which Fischli and Weiss gleefully, almost childishly, turned an array of meat products, sausages, and cocktail gherkins into the protagonists of absurd narratives. Another is Suddenly this Overview (1981), which consists of two hundred small, “amateurishly” hand-sculpted figurines made of unfired clay depicting imaginary, deeply humorous scenes inspired by historical events, popular culture or the lives of the two artists themselves. Their film The Point of Least Resistance (1980/81) stars a costumed Fischli and Weiss performing as their alter egos Rat and Bear. The plot follows a bizarre sequence of events in their quest to “make it big” in the art world.
For their photo series Equilibres (1984–86), the artist duo arranged everyday objects into imaginative, precariously-balanced, temporary constructs that seemed destined to collapse at any moment. That idea became the basis for The Way Things Go (1987), a film where the fragile set-ups actually do collapse in moments of ecstatic release. Arrangements of car tires, garbage bags, chairs, plastic bottles, candles, balloons, and other objects are set in motion by a startling causal chain that creates a kind of garage domino effect—the hypnotic illustration of a playful, everyday philosophy.
For their influential project Questions (2000–2003), the artists projected philosophical, humorous and absurd questions onto exhibition walls. Series such as Visible World (1987–2001) or Flowers and Mushrooms (1997–2006) show the artists turning to photographic motifs and techniques that are often used by hobby photographers. Some of the duo’s most influential works include carved, astonishingly real-seeming polyurethane replicas of commonplace objects and studio utensils such as paint buckets, bottles, product packaging, sinks, or rubber boots. The simulated, phantom-like readymades not only turned the logic of the readymade on its head, they also appeared together in installations showing fictitious archives of alien memories and the everyday designs of bygone eras.
Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s works are the result of a complex, rigorous and disciplined studio practice. Their engagement with the ordinary thrives on references to art and philosophy, but also precise social reflection. The artists ultimately use their sophisticated strategies of exposed mediocrity to expertly re-perform our day-to-day lives and make them visible in a new way. Their work challenges viewers to rediscover what they believe they already know—and in doing so to come to recognize the seemingly insignificant trivialities that have been sedimented in our collective pre-consciousness and are more meaningful than one likes to think.