Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Way Things Go and Pass

Fischli and Weiss, Der Lauf Der Dinge (The Way Things Go), video, 30', 1987

Honda Ad, 2003

OK Go - This Too Shall Pass, 2009

I remember the choreographer João Fiadeiro once showing Fischli & Weiss's work during some seminar or workshop and talking about what in his mind made it so impressive: necessity. Although it might seem like anything can happen, what happens is exactly what needs to happen. A tautology that evolves in time? But isn't any proof precisely that - a dynamic tautology?
So is it because it's a proof that it's so appealing?
A proof of what?
Of how things go, we are tempted to say.
Which, of course, is just silly talk. It's precisely because things don't go this way that we enjoy it so much. It's because the unexpected becomes necessary.

What about this "evolution"? The work of art turned into a commercial turned into a music video. Don't expect any moral judgement on that. Actually, I enjoyed all three videos.
We could discuss the question of authorship. But we won't. (Fischli & Weiss threatened to sue Honda).
Here's what I've been pondering on: what exactly are the differences?
Because, once you've accepted that they're all in the same category (actually, this type of inventions is called either Heath Robinson contraptions (UK), or (more commonly) Rube Goldberg Machines (US) and have been in popular culture at least since the beginning of the 20th century), you can see into how very different they are.
So what makes it an art project, a commercial, a music video?
If we turn the volume off, what changes?
If we put music, or switch it from one video to another?
The timing, the materials, the way things go and pass.
What sort of universe appears in each of them?
Yes, that's precious: they each have their own universe. They are entities. You can easily find yourself around them, with their texture, their dynamics, their smell...
One more thing: aren't they each hiding in their specific ways this very basic urge for things to make sense?
If that is so, it's beyond necessity or discovery. It's the comfort of order. The sense that somewhere beyond the frame, things are just waiting to come into action, to move into view. And their potential is already in perfect harmony with the moment when they will become what they are meant to be. The best of possible worlds.
It shouldn't come as a surprize that these delicately balancing certainties remind us of childhood.


josh said...

saw the first video at the Contemporary Museum in Honolulu

PJ Smalley said...

Josh, the video is also on display at the Hirshhorn in Washington DC. I've seen it a couple times and the video room is awlways crowded with people. God bless Fischli and Weiss for creating video art that's actually visually interesting and POPULIST. Populism seems to be the overlooked, inherent quality in video art today.

Drawn to Caricature said...

It's interesting that you should say these remind us of childhood. Whilst reading your post I'm reminded of several examples from children's films E.g. "Chitty chitty Bang Bang" "Wallace and Grommit" to name but 2. These types of artwork draw their appeal from both the anticipation of the perceived event and the surprise when that anticiation is or isn't met.

Erin Carr said...

I feel that each is using a medium to create a different message. And in the end their "machines" each have a different end result (in more then one way). Very interesting. Thanks for the thoughts.

Bruce said...

I Like your Blog!

Best, Bruce M. Mackh

Dakota said...

Thank you!

ingred said...

This is one of my favorite works. For me, the idea of necessity comes with its relationship to the transfer of energy, physical or chemical, which is necessary for life. Things necessarily affect one another, on every level, for life to continue, as “they become what they are meant to be”. Maybe that's the reason it's so appealing to watch. In a way it really is how things go and we are fascinated by the fundamental truth and beauty of it - something we are very in touch with as children when we are learning how our world works. It also makes me think of, or feel, history. It reminds me of the “How small is history” post.

The commercial and video have very different intentions and, as Erin commented, “have a different end result”. For me as a viewer, one of the differences is the feeling of being asked for, rather than offered, something.

dee said...

I've been a fan of Fischli and Weiss (the way things go) for years. 'ok go' is very creative, great fun and adds a twist to the classic.
I just found your blog and really appreciate the site, so thanks for sharing! I will certainly show your site to my Fine Art students! I keep trying to get them to poke around the web more- there's so much to see and think about!!!
thanks again!

koyaanisqatsi said...

i like your page. congratulations.

Pepe444 said...

Your blog is so prefect *-*


Kathleen McGiveron said...

I love those commercials... I think it is interesting to consider the method of displaying artwork outside of the white cube (aka the gallery). I have seen a few artists now use billboards as their method of displaying art. Most people driving or walking by are confused when they see a billboard featuring a woman making out with a historical marble statue and don't realize they are actually looking at an art work. It also brings about questions of authenticity and ownership if the art is displayed as a billboard or commercial. Love the article!

Following your blog!

Know the art scene with

Sincerely, your new fan from Vancouver,

Surprising laptop battery said...

happy to share your blog!
the video is great

Dave-o said...

I like your perspective on these matters....and is the honda video art? Good question

investment art said...

just watched the ok go video. i saw other videos from them before and really liked them and as i started to watch this one i thought it was just the same old trap and roll thing as done by many others but what made it was when every thing got BIG! glad they are still pushing things


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