The Way Things Go

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Still from a video of a Rube Goldberg machine, this section shows a piece of wood on fire, attached to a tire that is rolling.

Peter Fischli and David Weiss, The Way Things Go (Der Lauf der Dinge), 1987, color video, transferred from 16 mm film, with sound, 39 minutes, 45 seconds. Courtesy of Elayne Mordes Collection

When

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Peter Fischli and David Weiss worked together for decades until the death of Weiss in 2012. For their first collaboration in 1979, the artists transformed a bathroom shelf into a runway for fashionably dressed sausages. This installation was the first in a long career of witty interventions. Between 1984 and 1987, they produced the series titled Equilibres (A Quiet Afternoon), a group of tenuously arranged assemblages made with common household tools, food, and other random objects. These works exist solely in the series of photographs taken before their inevitable collapse.  While creating the Equilibres series, the artists became fascinated with impending chaos and led to the creation of The Way Things Go.

 

In 1985 Fischli and Weiss began to stage scenes of causal activity using items like tires, balloons, ladders, and fireworks. Through hours of trial and error, they composed cinematic sequences in which objects careen into one another, light each other on fire, and fly from place to place in an endlessly unraveling chain reaction. The objects appear to move of their own volition but in fact, the continual movement is an illusion. The video is comprised of nearly two dozen separate shots filmed over a period of two years. The audio effects were added in postproduction and the artists’ presence was masked by edits.

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