How to Work Better

By Kaycee Park

I admit I take pictures on my phone and never look at them again. The other day, while I was cleaning out years of old photos from my phone’s photo graveyard, I found some images from one of my favorite exhibits at the Guggenheim Museum. It was called "Peter Fischli and David Weiss: How to Work Better".


Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss were a duo, that through explorations of both the normal and the extraordinary, challenged the duality of the two and brought forth a humorous yet thoughtful and philosophical perspective on the wonder of all things in life. By combining a diverse range of questions that were trivial to cosmic, the two contributed productive ways to view the world, to challenge normality, and to reevaluate priorities and hierarchies in life.

Smoking Break

Their collection was almost like an encyclopedia, a documentation of human history, which was an interesting juxtaposition of the sophistication of man’s ability to record, using cameras, drawings, and sculptures, with the almost childlike, sketchy quality to some of these works, and the use of such monochrome materials made it almost banal and simplistic.

One of their sets called Suddenly This Overview, explored the popular opposites in life and playfully reminded me that the world is composed of opposites, and that neither side is more important than the other. The clay sculptures appeared to be spontaneously scattered throughout the path of the ramp, and had no real sense of order, but each sculpture depicted a scene of either banal, ritualistic, everyday moments such as grocery shopping or waiting for the elevator, or monumental and historical moments such as George Washington crossing the Delaware, or Mick Jagger and Brian Jones going home satisfied after composing "I Can't Get No Satisfaction".

In the Supermarket

Waiting for the Elevator

George Washington Crossing the Delaware

Mick Jagger and Brian Jones Going Home Satisfied after Composing "I Can’t Get No Satisfaction"

The real and the unreal were tested, by incorporating scenes from popular movies such as Star Trek and 2001: A Space Odyssey along with everyday scenes. The reality or the specialness of these landscapes were indifferentiable, and each scene became equally important. Reality and fantasy, the ordinary and the extraordinary almost blended, and the distinctions were blurred by the uniform use of this gray unfired clay.

Two Apes Incapable of Understanding the Mystery of the Monolith

The only variance created with the medium was the contrast of textures smooth and rough. There was no real hierarchy because there were no differences in scale or normative organization of these objects. It was raw, yet each moment was so clearly read and understood with the duo’s signature sense of humor, which both masked and revealed the deeper layer of understanding that there is a removal of common sense in order to wisely understand the universe.

Gotthard Breakthrough

In an interview Peter Fischli explained his thoughts about this collection: "We had this idea of making something you could call a private lexicon of the things you have in your mind, things you learned in school, things you know from mass media, things you know somebody told you. You have all these themes like sports and fairytales and science or whatever. We wanted to bring all these different things together, not making a selection, but creating a big mess of different themes at the same time. And clay was just the material we could use to make everything out of: clay is earth, after all. And we wanted to jump about not only through themes but through different styles: between the ones that are carefully made, and the wild ones. Some are very sketchy."


The Dentist

Fischli’s description of their work drew a parallel to the idea of collecting everything, even the minimally significant, because of the reasoning that as a collection, these items create something larger. If the entire universe were composed of all these items which were often labeled as ordinary or extraordinary, then all are significant and crucial to exist.