Sprueth Magers

‘Objects on Pedestals’ surveys sculptural works by Swiss artistic duo Peter Fischli and David Weiss. The exhibition includes a selection form the series ‘Rubber Sculptures’ (1986 – 1988), which comprises commonplace objects such as a dog bowl, a stuffed bird, a vinyl record and a cutlery tray cast, life-size, in black rubber. Interspersed with these objects are a number of oversized sculptures from 2007, again of banal, everyday items, but this time crudely fashioned from unfired clay.

Fischli and Weiss have always been fascinated by the transformative effect of art on the everyday, and the pair uses various strategies to explore this theme. Often the objects themselves are put to work, as with ‘Quiet Afternoon’ (1984–5) in which common vegetables and kitchen utensils are made to perform ungainly balancing acts, or “The Way Things Go’ (1987) in which randomly selected everyday objects are made to collide with one another in an absurd chain reaction, the results of which are recorded in photographs or on video.

As usual with Fischli and Weiss there is humour, here manifested in the banal but often quirky or cultish character of the objects, in the deadpan aesthetic, but there is pathos too as the usurped objects return in funereal black to mourn their own demise and haunt the present as a monochrome ghost of their former selves. Notions of the real and of representation arise as one is never fully able to dismiss the possibility that they might be the ‘actual’ object painted black and not a rubber cast at all. I had to prod one or two to be sure and they responded to my touch with a cartoonish ‘boing’.

Indexicality and mimesis feature heavily and like photographs, the closer the works resemble their object the more they expose the extent of their abstraction from it. Whilst photography flattens the object and wipes smooth the surface retaining only colour and tonal information, the rubber cast items are bled of colour whilst their spatial and textural particularities are faithfully reproduced. Though an inversion of the photographic effect, in both cases the object is killed and preserved for scrutiny, classification, collonisation, veneration, consumption or fetishisation.

Whatever form it takes, the desire to place objects on pedestals, whether it be in the name of science, art or history, is a desire to get to the bottom of things. This notion of knowing through looking is a legacy of the enlightenment and Descartes and one which Fischli and Weiss delightfully problematise by acknowledging the complexity of a process that enhances and diminishes its object simultaneously.