Modern Classics:
Peter Fischli & David Weiss – Der Lauf der Dinge, 1987


Peter Fischli & David Weiss

Der Lauf der Dinge, 1987

Color video, transferred from 16 mm film, with sound, 30:00 min.

Courtesy of the artists, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich; Sprüth Magers,
Berlin / London; Skarstedt, London / New York; Matthew Marks Gallery, New York / Los Angeles



Join us for half an hour of wonder with Peter Fischli & David Weiss’ iconic video Der Lauf der Dinge. In the almost 30 years since its making, this video has been one of the most frequently screened works of video art in museums around the world. It follows an improbable, Rube Goldberg-esque chain of events involving rolling tires, flaming puddles of slowly leaking liquid and balloons bursting with foaming soap.


Fischli & Weiss’s film Der Lauf der Dinge (1987) developed out of their earlier series Equilibres (Stiller Nachmittag) (1984–86). As they repeatedly tried to balance objects for those photographs, the artists became fascinated with states of impending collapse.


In 1985 they began to stage scenes of causal activity in an empty warehouse using items like tires, balloons, ladders, and fireworks. Through sheer determination and hours of trial and error, they composed cinematic sequences in which objects careen into one another, light each other on fire, and fly from place to place in an endlessly unraveling chain reaction. In fact, the sense of continual movement is an illusion: the piece comprises nearly two dozen separate shots filmed without sound over a period of two years. Fischli & Weiss masked the transitions by fading between images of white foam or bright explosions and added audio effects in postproduction – part of their sustained effort to remove any evidence of human involvement in the actions. The objects appear to move of their own volition, freed from their usual functions and reveling in the pleasure of their misbehavior.


Der Lauf der Dinge premiered at Documenta 8, Kassel in 1987, where it was loved and praised by both visitors as by a more specialist audience of artists, critics, and curators. The work embodies many of the qualities that make Fischli & Weiss’s work among the most captivating in the world today: slapstick humor and profound insight; a forensic attention to detail; a sense of illusion and transformation; and the dynamic exchange between states of order and chaos.


Der Lauf der Dinge is part of Guggenheim collection and is currently shown in the retrospective “Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better” at Guggenheim, New York. Their show is on view through April 27.

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