What Goes Up, Must Come Down

Science of the Quotidian
by Christopher Flower (installation)

The Way Things Go
by Peter Fischli & David Weiss (film, 30 min)

August 2, 7:00pm, Durham Art Gallery
Continues to September 16

Ilse Gassinger

Both science and art are about seeing. Through careful observation and scrutiny new ideas emerge, sometimes shifting our overall relationship to life and the world, or at least to the objects and events that populate it.

In Science of the Quotidian, which features work from an ongoing series by Montreal artist Christopher Flower, this dual principle is evident in suspenseful, minute events that recast commonplace objects as paradoxical and strange.

For the past five years Flower has been looking closely at the everyday, the ordinary and the banal. His studio serves as a laboratory and stage where he puts mundane objects first into boxes and then under the magnifying glass of a video camera. To make the commonplace into an aesthetic experience, Flower had to eliminate two particular aspects of everyday rawness: use and habit. With wit and ingenuity, he uses the intimate scale and time-based properties of video to transform simple items such as beer bottles, bagels, beads, eggs and soccer balls into actors in an ironic play. Each short vignette invents a dramatic moment in the life of an ordinary thing, filled with suspense and surprise and which gives these inanimate objects a kind of body language and attitude.

Each snapshot illuminates unexpected facets of the familiar - the extraordinary within the ordinary. The objects shown are real but the things are not what they seem. Unseen forces disrupt the expected conditions, infusing the objects with life and importance. Through a metaphysical shift, bottles shatter under the impact of no apparent force, a cat is trapped in an absurd vantage point, and water pours unexpectedly in the wrong direction. In carrying out these manipulations, Flower deliberately chooses the unrefined over the polished, the do-it-yourself over technical sophistication. His low-tech videos are playful, whimsical and irreverent and he dismisses the arsenal of video tricks, the digital age has made available.

Science of the Quotidian is a series of engaging mini-narratives full of visual experimentation and play that reveal the poetry and magic in the everyday.

In his work Flower overtly references the mid-eighties work of Fischli & Weiss which document balancing feats constructed from a clutter of household objects.

The Gallery will also show Fischli & Weiss’ award winning 1987 postmodern masterpiece The Way Things Go which follows a perpetual-motion machine made of simple objects such as string, soap, Styrofoam cups, rubber tires, step ladders, plastic pails and balloons. When combined with fire, gas and gravity, these objects form a chain of kinetic energy that hypnotizes us with its chaotic potential.

Since the late 1970s, Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss have captivated audiences with their extraordinary depictions of the commonplace. It was their work on Quiet Afternoon (1984/85), a series of photographs of everyday objects teetering on the brink of collapse, that gave them the idea for this film. The plan was that the threaten structures should actually be allowed to collapse and the resulting energy should be used for an artistic relay race of objects. The first version was Sketch for The Way Things Go, a three-minute film loop in which key sequences of the later 30-minute film are outlined and tested.

Inside a warehouse Fischli & Weiss created a precarious 100-foot-long, self-destroying kinetic sculpture as an experimental artistic set-up for a scripted, controlled performance where nothing may happen too late or too soon. Everything happens only when it can happen and nothing can stop it. The film camera is audience and witness to this epic tour-de-force of effect and counter-effect: a rotating garbage bag touches a tire, which rolls down an inclined plane and bangs into a plank, which forces a stepladder to descend until it trips: the domino effect continues until inflammable foam goes up in smoke as it spills over the lip of a tray.
The Way Things Go is a thrill of rolling, burning, toppling, exploding and melting things shot in (almost) one take. There is no sound in the film other than the hilarious whirring, clanking, fizzing, and groaning of the mechanical beast at work. The film brings about a story concerning work and play, order and chaos, mundane and sublime, inevitability and chance, improbability and precision.

Seeing everyday objects come alive through the works of Fischli & Weiss and Christopher Flower will compel us to examine our surroundings with fresh eyes, discovering an exhilarating new strangeness in the world around us.

Christopher Flower received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Lethbridge in 2000 and his Master of Fine Arts degree from Concordia University in 2003. His multi-disciplinary practice draws from a variety of sources: conceptual art, minimalism, illusionism, DIY invention, and animation. Recent exhibitions include: The Third Space, Saint John, New Brunswick; Ed Video, Guelph Ontario; YYZ Artists outlet, Toronto, Ontario; and the New Gallery in Calgary, Alberta.
Flower currently resides at latitude 52°26’48.12”N and longitude 102°47’42.92”W where he is taking part in an annual tree planting residency to support his art and life. He will be present at the opening on Thursday, August 2.

Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss have collaborated on kinetic installations since 1979. All of their work to date, whether in photography, film, drawing, or sculpture, has demonstrated a deep interest in the mechanisms that animate the universe of objects.

A 2003 award-winning Honda commercial, Cog, echoes the film The Way Things Go. Cog was shot in real time, required 606 takes, cost US $6 million to shoot and took 3 months to complete. Tony Davidson of ad agency Widen and Kennedy, which made Cog, said ‘Advertising references culture and always has done. Part of our job is to be aware of what is going on in society. There is a difference between copying and being inspired by.” Make your own judgment:

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