Peter Fischli and David Weiss
How to Work Better
Two wooden chairs are perilously balanced on top of each other. While they face opposite directions, their forelegs meet in the middle, executing a balancing act that mirrors the teeter-totter of working collaboratively. The hazardously assembled configuration is stabilized by the camera’s ability to hold a moment in time. Outlaws is part of a photographic series titled Equilibres/Quiet Afternoon (1984 — 1986) by Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss in which everyday household objects are liberated from their intended practical functions and form precariously stabilized arrangements.
Fischli and Weiss’s retrospective exhibition presents a body of work that developed during their thirty-three-year collaboration, from 1979 until Weiss’s death in 2012. Arranged along the Guggenheim’s curved ramp in a non-chronological logic, the works embrace contradictions, destabilize false dichotomies, and unravel popular opposites. We are greeted by Rat and Bear (Sleeping) (2008), a sculpture of Fischli and Weiss’s alter-egos: the omnipresent rodent and the endangered panda whose adventures and misadventures have appeared in the duo’s films since the 1980s. The two tattered stuffed animals are sleeping by the entrance of the exhibition, their bellies rising and falling with every mechanical breath. The exhibition’s title, How to Work Better, is taken from a curious list of motivational instructions Fischli and Weiss found pinned up in a Thai ceramics factory, which is recreated as a public mural at the corner of Houston and Mott streets in Soho. As our waking hours are oriented around productivity and efficiency, divisions between rest/work and labour/leisure become increasingly blurred. Oblivious to the chaotic bustle that surrounds their peaceful slumber, Rat and Bear perform the work of unproductivity.