To coincide with a retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum opening February 5, two additional projects by the artist duo Fischli & Weiss will be on view in New York — one in Times Square, and another on a wall at the intersection of Houston and Mott. The former is a short video, Busi (Kitty), which features a black-and-white cat lapping up milk. The latter is a text piece, How To Work Better, whose ongoing history is one of displacement: From the text’s origins as a motivational guide for laborers in Thailand; to its initial appearance as a public artwork in Zurich, circa 1991; and finally as an enigmatic mural in hypergentrified Manhattan. The work in 2016 will be seen in “a very different context than the mural’s first presentation on a Swiss office building,” says curator Andria Hickey of Public Art Fund, who is spearheading the project. “Yet in both cases, the piece invites a shift in expectation. The public nature of a text-based work will always play with the idea of an official sign, or an advertisement, although the product being sold, or the office behind the sign, is unexpectedly absent. In New York, given the dense commercial visual landscape of lower Manhattan, How To Work Better will be in dialogue with its surroundings— playing with the expectations that signs in public space are vehicles for selling, rather than spaces for sharing ideas without any commercial motivation.”
We imagine the text itself will generate some productive confusion when pondered by tourists and workers downtown. With its straightforward imperatives (“Accept Change as Inevitable,” “Say It Simple”) it’s hard to know whether to take it as sincere advice or a dystopian mash-up of 1984 and Who Moved My Cheese? management theory.
—Scott Indrisek (@indrisek)
(Photo: Peter Fischli and Davis Weiss, How To Work Better, 1991, as originally shown in Zurich. Courtesy Fischli Weiss Archive).