Peter Fischli (1952) and David Weiss (1946–2012) began their 33-year collaboration in 1979. Resisting any specific style, medium, or material, their work explores the poetics of banality – the sublimity of the objects and events constituting everyday life. Indebted to Dada, Surrealism, Pop Art, and Conceptual Art, their photographs, videos, slide projections, films, books, sculptures, and multimedia installations rely on keen observation and uncanny wit.
Throughout the course of their partnership, Fischli and Weiss probed the idea of dualistic thinking. Perhaps because they were a team of two involved in constant dialogue and debate, they consistently interrogated Western culture’s reliance on contraries. In one way or another, everything they produced together playfully unravels what the artists understood to be “popular opposites” – labor versus leisure, fiction versus reality, kitsch versus beauty, and the banal versus the sublime. The artists embodied this approach in their alter egos, Rat and Bear, who, for all their differences (rats being ugly and ubiquitous while pandas are lovable and endangered), appear as equal partners in their various misadventures. Rat and Bear surface throughout Fischli and Weiss’s work in a range of forms, including appearances in the early films The Least Resistance (1980–81) and The Right Way (1983), as “authors” of the artists’ book Order and Cleanliness (1981), and as a sculpture, Rat and Bear (Sleeping) (2008).
The booklet Ordnung und Reinlichkeit (Order and Cleanliness, 1981) accompanied the Rat and Bear films and is crammed with charts and diagrams, each attempting to impose a crazed order on the world. The original booklet was a self produced booklet, comprising a set of 15 photocopies on sale following the first showing of The Least Resistance at a late-night screening in Zurich.