Fischli Weiss ambush ordinary objects, places and materials, transforming them into insightful renditions of the everyday.
The large-scale sculptural installation The Raft (1982–83) forms the heart of Should I paint a pirate ship on my car with an armed figure on it holding a decapitated head by the hair?. Banal objects such as barrels, wooden crates and canisters are piled loosely atop wooden planks, while crocodiles and hippos appear to lurk in the surrounding waters. First conceived in 1982, the work took its present form when it was expanded for an exhibition curated by Martin Kippenberger, in Cologne, in 1982. Made at a time when the world was in the grip of the Cold War and faced with a despoiled environment, the work articulates with equal force the uncertainty of our present age. Sculpted entirely from polyurethane, a versatile material often used in film productions, the choice of medium situates the work in the realm of the modest and mundane.
If the composition recalls Théodore Géricault’s painting The Raft of the Medusa (1819), the objects on Fischli Weiss’s raft seem scarcely worth saving. A skull sits atop a treasure chest, while beside it a lifesaver offers an absurd counterpunch. The presence of a sow and her piglets recalls Noah’s ark, adding both an uplifting and a comic note to the overall air of disaster and precariousness.
Kanalvideo (1992) is silent, 60-minute video of footage from a camera advancing through an empty sewer. A dank, underground pipe, a feature of every large city in the world, is transformed into an abstract, contemplative kaleidoscope. Kanalvideo conjures a haunting poetics of the ordinary.
All installation views by Stephen White