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Büsi (Cat)

Fischli & Weiss (Swiss, active 1979)

2001

Medium video; color, sound; 7 min. Measurements No Measurements Credit Milton Fine Fund Accession Number 2006.19.2 Location Not on View

Narrative

The work of Fischli and Weiss is incredibly diverse in appearance, encompassing a wide range of media including photography, sculpture, video, film and installation. For the past twenty-six years, the duo has used these diverse modes of expression in an attempt to unearth the hidden beauty in our everyday environment. Through both wickedly-humorous and endearing means, the artists deploy a wide variety of ordinary objects, materials, and situations in order to inject a childlike sense of wonder into the banality of our everyday lives. For most of us, it might be surprising that two videos depicting nothing more than domesticated animals engaged in everyday behavior could be both humorous and insightful. However, in the world of Fischli and Weiss, it is not only possible, but typical. Hund (Dog), 2003 (2006.19.1), is footage of two friendly-looking terriers standing behind a wooden fence, one beside the other. The two dogs apparently see something in front of them, hidden from the viewer because of the placement of the camera. As a result, they are positively quivering with excitement and emitting a continuous stream of soft whining, interspersed with the occasional bark. At one point the image shifts to a profile view, with one dog visible in the foreground and the other in the background, standing on his haunches. The slats of the fence frame their faces, which are pushed up close with their noses poking through, and when the camera zooms in, the image mimics the structure of a painting. Our amusement as viewers is tempered by a nagging question as to what is on the other side. Likewise, Büsi (Cat), 2001 (2006.19.2), depicts a close-up of a white-and-charcoal colored cat lapping milk from a terra cotta dish. The footage simply shows the cat in various states of contentment as it drinks its meal, looking up occasionally, not at the viewer, but to lick its lips or to ponder feline thoughts. Unlike Hund, Büsi does not have sound. Notably, this work was originally shown in a massive-scale format on the electronic billboard in Times Square in 2001, as part of Creative Time's project The 59th Minute: Video Art on the Times Square Astrovision. As with their earlier work Canal Video (1992), the progression of Büsi and Hund operates on the same principal as much of their work: to slow down our perception in order to get us to experience ordinary things that we habitually take for granted in a new light. It is this unearthing of the sublime in the everyday that is at the center of all of their work.

Artist Bio

Peter Fischli and David Weiss were both born in Zürich, Switzerland in 1952 and 1946, respectively. Fischli attended the Academia di Belle Arti in Urbino and Bologna, completing his studies in 1977, while Weiss studied at Vorkurs, Kunstgewerbeschule in Zürich from 1963 to 1964 and at Kunstgewerbeschule in Basel from 1964 to 1965. Since 1979, Fischli and Weiss have worked together as a team, exhibiting widely in numerous solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world, including the 50th Carnegie International in 1988. They have been featured in a wide range of solo exhibitions at museums, including their first retrospective organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1996) which traveled to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA, the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio, the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boson, MA, and the Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg, Germany. They have widely shown their work internationally at institutions such as Museu d'Art Contemporani, Barcelona, Spain; the Museu du Arte Contemporânea Fundaçao de Serralves, Porto, Portugal; and the Museo Tamayo, Mexico City, Mexico. They were the featured artists in the Swiss Pavilion at the 1995 Venice Biennale and in 2000, were awarded the Günther-Peill-Preis from the Leopold-Hoesch-Museum in Düren, Germany.