Liege Fleissner was created in 1991 and perfectly condenses many of the issues that lie at the heart of Franz West's challenging body of work. Essentially, Liege Fleissner is a sofa made from metal with wound and stretched leather providing the support for a person - this is an invitation for the 'viewer' to experience the artwork in a more direct, tactile sense, adding a performative dimension to the sculpture, only too appropriate in the work of an artist whose early exposure to the Viennese Actionists such as Hermann Nitsch had turned him towards his vocation. At the same time, it fulfills West's own statement that, 'The perception of art takes place through the pressure points that develop when you lie on it' (West, quoted in B. Curiger, 'In Conversation with Franz West', pp. 7-21, R. Fleck, B. Curiger & N. Benezra, Franz West, London, 1999, p. 9). The raised rest at one end, where the 'viewer' or participant can place their head, forces us into a position that is itself a performance.
Amongst West's output are several sculptures - sofas, divans and chairs like Liege Fleissner - which clearly straddle the world of art and that of practicality. In this way, West manages to invoke the tribal art of Africa, where objects such as head rests and stools are themselves artworks, as well as the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud, one of the most famous residents of the artist's home, Vienna. There is a sense of intimacy to this object, invoking the privacy of psychoanalysis and also perhaps of seduction. The sheer practicality of the appearance of interactive works such as Liege Fleissner recalls West's fascination with the work of the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein: West has granted art a purpose, albeit a multi-faceted one. At the same time, he manages to invoke the cultural backdrop of his native Vienna in the form of the sofa, which recalls the communal spaces such as the cafs in which so many of the conversations that would prove so vital to his artistic formation took place. Even the aesthetic of the Viennese Secession is recalled in the leather and the rigid angularity of Liege Fleissner. However, here it has been given a brutalist, post-industrial appearance, as West appears to have reclaimed and repurposed humble materials in order to create an art object.
In this, West shows some affinity with his fellow artist Richard Fleissner, who is named in the title. One of the significant figures of the Viennese contemporary scene of the 1990s, Fleissner was, like West, one of the important and successful students of Bruno Gironcoli at the Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien as well as a sometime collaborator of Martin Kippenberger. Like Liege Fleissner, much of Fleissner's work bridges gaps between the past and the present, sometimes taking discarded elements and crafting from them new artforms.