The Way Things Go
Fischli, Peter, and Weiss, David
(1946 - 2012)
Time-based media art
Medium and Support:
Color video with sound
Gift of Nancy S. and Peter O. Brown
Location: Not currently on view
From 1979 to 2012, the Swiss duo of Peter Fischli (b. 1952) and David Weiss (1946–2012) created a distinctly humorous body of multimedia work that employed humble materials and referenced ordinary subjects. Their film The Way Things Go (Der Lauf der Dinge), 1987, features a seemingly endless chain reaction of everyday objects with the expected human intervention needed to incite their movement curiously absent.
The premise for the piece extends from Equilibres, 1984–87, a series of photographs featuring sculptural constructions made from precariously balanced studio and street detritus captured at a moment of stability.
After Equilibres, the next logical step for Fischli and Weiss was to harness the “energy of never-ending collapse” embedded in the frozen images. At a warehouse in Zurich, the duo assembled objects in scenarios in which the momentum generated from simple machines, like levers or pulleys, or chemical reactions propelled the objects forward. The artists carefully sequenced these interactions, so the force of one object’s movement would impact the next, and so on, evoking Rube Goldberg’s humorous illustrations of complex mechanical contraptions that performed simple tasks. Using film, they recorded the resulting interplay in long takes, making cuts when the pace of reaction was particularly slow.
In The Way Things Go, objects take on personalities, becoming nonhuman actors cast in a slapstick comedy. As Peter Fischli noted in 2006, “The film created the impression that the things move on their own, without human help, that they become spirited, living beings.” Watch closely and discover how the artists made ordinarily inanimate objects come alive.
(Gallery wall text from 2019 exhibition)