Trix Wetter, the designer of Parkett, took this photo in 1986 at Sonnabend Gallery, when it was still downtown on West Broadway. We were on a trip to New York because Parkett had an office there; it was a happy coincidence that Peter and David had a show at the same time. We were incredibly proud that our friends were showing at this prestigious gallery. The sculpture, of a stylized animal made of polyurethane, cloth and a thin coat of gypsum, was hollow: when you look into a hole in its bottom you see the animal’s schematic face at the other end. It had this very specific Fischli/Weiss humor.
I met them in the mid-’70s, when I was in my 20s. Peter is a bit younger than me, and David was about two years older. David was doing these big gouache drawings—very poetic, beautiful work. At this time there was a very lively music scene in Zurich; Peter designed record covers and really fantastic fliers for an all-woman band called Kleenex (they eventually became quite successful in London and had to change their name to LiLiPUT).
In 1980, I curated a show about the merging art and music scenes in Zurich and included Fischli/Weiss’s first collaborative work, the now famous “Sausage Series.” I intended to include Least Resistance (1981), their first “Rat and Bear” film, but it wasn’t finished in time, so we showed the “Sausage” photos instead. We also organized an evening with all these punk and new wave bands. That same summer there were riots in Zurich, and the press perceived them as connected to my show, which wasn’t true. It was quite an interesting moment—a generational shift. It was a bit shocking for people who had conservative ideas about art and culture. Before Fischli/Weiss, artists had to emigrate in order to have an international career. In the 19th century they went to Munich or Paris, and after the war they went to New York. I think Fischli/Weiss are part of the first generation who didn’t have to leave.
I’ve worked with them on many other occasions over the years: I co-curated (with Lynne Cooke) “Doubletake” at London’s Hayward Gallery in 1992, and organized their traveling retrospective in 2006-07 with Vicente Todoli. And I included their work in the Venice Biennale in 2011, when I was the director. The Venice sculptures were the last big pieces the two made together before David died in 2012. But they have a different mood; they’re much more melancholic, almost like metaphysical objects.
— As told to Leigh Anne Miller