Fischli & Weiss with rats and bears at Reina Sofia

Are animals people?


This exhibition by Peter Fischli (Zurich, 1952) and David Weiss (Zurich, 1946) organized by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, brings together a selection of pieces made by the artists themselves and centers around the protagonists in their first works, Rat and Bear. Present at different moments throughout Fischli and Weiss’ career, these characters have enabled them to question art as an alternative system of knowledge by positioning themselves with distanced irony on a thin line between fiction and reality. The artists work with a wide range of techniques to construct banality, common objects and places, as well as perceptions of time. They draw from humor, absurdity, distance and ingenuity as tools to achieve this. Building on estrangement allows them to reflect in greater depth on trivial matters without apparent meaning while they approach more sublime subject matters with a sense of humor. The work speaks to transforming common places, revising everyday reality and banality. Toward this end, the artists have relied on investigating and observing their own surroundings, providing an inversion of values and hierarchies vis-à-vis reality. Even if the works do not have an explicit moral, they display and produce different situations, sometimes with the use of many stimuli and other times, with suggestive puns that encourage reflection from their viewers.


Peter Fischli and David Weiss have been working together since 1979. Their earliest collaboration, executed immediately prior to the first film featuring Bear and Rat, consisted of a series of photos, their Wurstserie (Sausage series), portraying everyday scenes made from sausages and other ordinary objects. Using everyday materials to counter the solemnity and weight of traditional art genres it proposed an “amateurish” aesthetic closer to children’s handcrafts, and so brought into play many different aspects that would prove central to their later work.

In their sculptures, installations, photographs and films, Fischli/Weiss couple an exploration of their immediate surrounding environment with a signature deadpan wit, in order to generate far-reaching reflections, which uncover the pettiness subsumed in theoretically sublime concerns. In this fashion, they implement a systematic dehierarchisation that posits new subjective orders and classifications in what surrounds us. In their films, the artists acknowledge certain similarities with educational cinema, yet, by contrast, their works offer no explanations. In fact, far from analyzing, they show their contents with a laconic directness. They also frequently put the spectator in an uncomfortable predicament, sometimes by dint of the disproportionate quantity of stimuli included and other times because of the ambiguous or striking character of what is shown.

Dates:April 30 – August 31, 2009
Palacio de Cristal (El Retiro Park) and the Sabatini Building. (4th Floor, Area D)
Organized by: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía



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