Spending time looking for a tiny miracle at the end of the day, it suddenly all makes sense, way things go.
With Peter Fischli and David Weiss, the way things go is that they take time: not necessarily "actual" time, but possibly the contemplative relation one could have with time. Their most recent video work - accumulated footage from various tops, both planned and spontaneous, encompassing experiences ranging from daily activities to an event that might occur once in a blue moon - was a year and a half in the making. In their work the camera takes in a "handheld reality," fragments of events within the parameters of the artists' reach - encounters occurring during an afternoon drive, a day trip, or a journey across the continent.
I arrived in Zurich to spend a couple of days (two and a half, to be precise) with Peter and David as they prepared for their show "Peter Fischli and David Weiss: In a Restless World," on view at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis until August 11. In addition to works of sculpture, film, and photography, the exhibition features their videos, shown for the first time since their debut at the Swiss Pavilion in the 1995 Fenice Biennale. Dubbing all the tapes for the Walker exhibition will take 10 hours a day over a 12-day period. Between the taping and the work of preparing the rest of the show, Peter and David arranged for the three of us (and a friend) to take a guided tour of the "Holloch" (hell hole), the largest cave in Europe and one of the biggest in the world. The fragment below is an excerpt from an attempt to conduct an interview in real time (comprising 15 hours of recording); as with reality, many things worked, and many failed, but in spending time with Peter Fischli and David Weiss, a small event can answer all the big questions.
The taping begins in the car with David on the way from the airport to one of Fischli and Weiss's studios. David and I discuss the idea for the interview and agree I will tape our conversation in real time (or close to real time) - that is, turning the recorder on and letting it go for the two and a half days I will be spending with them. David says that they haven't done an interview in a while and that in the past it has never been quite satisfying.
DAVID WEISS: Did you go to the Biennale in Venice last year?
RIRKRIT TIRAVANIJA: No, I didn't get to see the project.
DW: It's quite similar to the idea of having the tape recorder running in real time during our conversation. Did you hear about it? It's not exactly real time but it is close to real time.
RT: The exhibition in the U.S. will start at the Walker Art Center, in Minneapolis?
DW: Yes. We will show older works as well, though it is not quite a retrospective. Not everything we have made will be in the exhibition. At the Walker it'll be shown in the room downstairs. Do you know this space? We'll try to show the works in a mellow light or spotlit. We'll have some works on the walls, of course, but we'll also have two videos which will be projected. For the piece we did in Venice we'll have ten TV monitors. A slide projection and a smaller piece with light, plus two sculptures. All in the dark!
RT: Like in the Holloch. When you made the videos for the piece in Venice, was there a specific situation you went around trying to tape?
DW: Well, it took us about a year or a year and a half to make it all. It started with one video, shot on the road we're driving on now, going back and forth, to and from the studio, in addition to footage shot of us in our studio. We took the bus. When we were asked to present a project in Venice, we felt there was more to this activity, more in reality, more in a place where there is no art. When the camera is on, you decide that this is a good situation. Like now [looking out the car window], there's something special about this moment. Sometimes we would take small trips, sometimes together, sometimes alone, without any destination, just driving and going out in the woods. …