About this artwork
Since 1979, the collaborative duo of Fischli & Weiss have imbued their art with a mix of absurdist humor, childlike wonder, existential inquiry, and an interest in the mundane. Their work—including books, films, mixed-media installations, photographs, sculptures, slide projections, and videos—incorporates aspects of Pop Art, Conceptual Art, and Dada yet defies association with any particular style. With a playful focus on the everyday, their art explores prosaic objects and experiences in a way that invests them with an unexpectedly sublime quality.
Questions, which combines profound metaphysical speculations and banal tribulations, exemplifies the willful ambiguity that pervades the artists’ oeuvre. A large-scale, choreographed installation, the work utilizes fifteen slide projectors to cast hundreds of handwritten queries written in four different languages—English, German, Italian, and Japanese—in white on the walls of a dark room. The words, never ceasing to ask while proposing no answers, overlap each other, creating undulating patterns that slowly appear and quickly fade. The interrogations range from the empirical (“How long is the Nile?”) to the absurd (“Is it true that traces of aliens have been found in yogurt?”), the personal (“Am I loved?”), and the metaphysical (“Do souls wander?”). “Our aim wasn’t to think about the questions themselves too much,” the artists explained, “but about someone coming up with all those questions. In very vague terms, we did imagine someone asking himself slightly paranoid questions that revolve very much around himself.” These, they think, are just the sort of questions that would run through his mind as he falls asleep, hence the dark room.
Questions have preoccupied Fischli & Weiss for over twenty-five years, first appearing in the photocopied publication Order and Cleanliness (1981), which accompanied the film The Least Resistance (1980–81). In that work, the artists, dressed in plush rat and bear costumes, ponder the limits of existence. They explored this terrain further in the book Big Questions/Small Questions, in which they juxtapose expansive questions such as “Where is the galaxy going?” with smaller ones like “Has the last bus gone?” The pair revisited these interrogations in 1984, when they lined the interior of Question Pot, a large polyurethane vessel, with one hundred questions in German. They first projected their queries in 2000 with three slide projectors, following this with a five-projector version and expanding it yet again with Questions, the large-scale work shown here. Along with a companion book, Will Happiness Find Me?, the piece debuted at the 2003 Venice Biennale, where it won the Golden Lion; soon thereafter, it entered the Art Institute’s collection as a joint acquisition with the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.
Within its dreamlike atmosphere, Questions highlights the force of language, illu-minating the concerns that haunt our psyches. Grand in scale and powerfully poignant, it evokes and transcends nearly every other work the artists have produced.
Currently Off View
- Contemporary Art
- Fischli & Weiss
- 1,215 slides, fifteen slide projectors, fifteen lenses, and eight dissolve units; continous loop; edition number two of three
- Dimensions vary with installation
- Jointly acquired by The Art Institute of Chicago through prior gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joel Starrels; Burt Kaplan Fund; through prior gift of Gould, Inc. and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by Acquisition and Collection Committee
- © 1981/2002-2003 Peter Fischli and David Weiss.