Wednesday, 15 October 2008

was it all a coincidence?

Almost 2 years ago now, i went to the Fischli and Weiss retrospective at the Tate modern, and it's still playing on my mind. My favourite room was more of a darkened corridor between two exhibition rooms, where 4 slide projectors had been set up. These projectors were all changing slides at different times, and th enoise of them was almost hypnotic. The slides were a series of questions asked in English, French, German and Chinese, all overlapping each other, fading in and out, interspersed with doodles of pigeons and cars. I think in total i spent over an hour in there, and during that time i copied down some of the questions. Here is a selection of my favourites for you to contemplate and enjoy.

can everything be thought?
would it help me if i dug a hole?
is normality an indication of laziness?
would i like to be a mysterious person full of secrets?
do i know almost everything about myself?
are there false feelings?
why is everything so radiant?
do i like a good brawl?
should i launch an investigation?
are my feelings correct?
is this brown lump edible?
should i build a tower?
why won't they let us talk about what we don't understand?
would anybody look for me if i disappeared?
why is everything so far away?
will children sing songs about me in 100 years time?
do i have to envision the universe as foam?
am i my soul's sleeping bag?
is an invisible person in my bedroom?
is everything a dream?
can ghosts see me?
am i somebody else in private?
am i naive?
am i an eccentric?
is indecisiveness proof of free will?
will everything come out?
is the world there when i'm not?
is hunger an emotion?
am i beautiful?
what if happiness is looking for me in the wrong place?

Here's what they said about it:

Hundreds of questions, handwritten in four different languages, are projected onto the wall in playfully undulating patterns. Combining grandiose metaphysical speculation and the mundane problems of everyday life, Questions (2002-03) explores the point where the profound slips into the ridiculous. Fischli / Weiss have described them as questions that don’t demand a response but instead make you wonder what kind of person would ask such a thing. As one impossible question follows another, they begin to suggest the workings of an incoherent and restless mind. ‘In a certain way, it leads to a dissolution of the self if all of these things simply whirl about unanswered – a feverish, disoriented state that’s upsetting because it’s unstoppable’, Weiss has said. ‘We did in fact imagine a presence at the centre of this multitude of questions, and we made speculations about the person. Most likely it was a man who lets everything run through his head before falling asleep – thus the projection of questions in the dark.’

The tiny sketches, such as a pecking bird and a van with its headlights blazing, are like casual doodles, adding to this sense of a mind wandering. According to Fischli, ‘they’re like decorations on a Christmas tree; one doesn’t really need them but they somehow spread a good mood anyway.’

This installation was the culmination of a series of works composed of absurd questions, including a book called Will Happiness Find Me? The use of text is reminiscent of the Conceptual art of the 1960s and 1970s, in which the physical art object is less important than the ideas that it embodies. It also emphasises the philosophical character of Fischli / Weiss’s art, a willingness to question the world that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

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