“Might we not say that every child at play behaves like a creative [artist], in that he creates a world of his own, or rather, rearrange the things of his work in a new way which pleases him?’
- Sigmund Freud, "Creative Writers and Daydreaming,” The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 9, London 1959, pp. 143-153.
Presenting itself to the viewer as a sculpture of four anonymous air stewardesses, Hostessen, 1989, exemplifies artist duo Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s enduring fondness for transforming the commonplace and unexpected into the realm of art. Between 1979 and 2012, Fischli and Weiss collaboratively experimented with sculpture, installation, photography, video and film to create a diverse and rich oeuvre of universal resonance that examines the conditions of the contemporary world with a kind of mischievous effortlessness and humor, but also sincere philosophical questioning. A captivating example of the duo’s unconventional aesthetic and perpetual revisiting of the theme of air travel, Hostessen depicts four, nearly identical, stewardesses standing in a tight diamond-shaped formation, facing the viewer with blank expressions, carrying the weight of their profession on their shoulders. It is this playful sensibility and intellectual sincerity that has prompted art philosopher Arthur Danto to identify within Fischli and Weiss’ practice a childlike form of play that is characterized by “a certain sweetness and a kind of innocence, even if it transcends in its complexity what children themselves are able to do” (A. Danto, “Play/Things,” Peter Fischli and David Weiss: In a Restless World, Minneapolis and London, 1996, p.97).
While demonstrating to a degree a certain affinity with the spirit of the Duchampian readymade and Pop Art’s reconciliation of the ordinary, Hostessen in particular demonstrates Fischli and Weiss’ longstanding concern with figurative sculpture. With Suddenly This Overview, one of the duo’s earliest and most well-known collaborations that featured over 250 figurative unfired clay sculptures, Fischli and Weiss were one of the first to re-introduce the figure and representation in the realm of sculpture. Working with unfired clay in an apparently naïve aesthetic, Fischli and Weiss directly challenged the status quo of art making in the late 1970s and early 1980s “when we showed the clay figures in Zurich, although many people liked them, we still didn’t feel that we were taken entirely seriously. For many people it was nice jokes and anecdotes, nothing more. Many people reduced it to the narrative level. But we knew what we were doing, and that appealed to us” (P. Fischli, as quoted in J. Heiser, “The Odd Couple,” Frieze, London, October 2006, http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/the_odd_couple/).
Hostessen, which Fischli and Weiss created in 1989 as part of a larger series of small-scale sculptures which the artists cast from hand-carved polyurethane models in unfinished plaster or rubber, testifies to the disarming ease and playfulness with which Fischli and Weiss constantly and continuously strike at the very conventions of art. With a nod to the dominantly 18th century practice of creating plaster cast replicas from Greek and Roman sculptures, Fischli and Weiss replaced the white marble original masterpieces of Classical sculpture with carved models of stewardesses or, in other instances, automobiles, music records or even dog dishes. As such, Fischli and Weiss’ accessible, subversively generic form of art challenges traditional assumptions about art making, objecthood, originality and authorship, as well as encouraging the viewer to probe more deeply into the questions of the universe – whether big or small, profound or mundane. As Peter Fischli stated “We do take steps to show things in their true light. Which is also what makes it interesting: we don't want to be rid of it altogether, but we don't want to leave it as it is either. That's true of many of our works: we want to take things out of the niche where they belong and transport them somewhere else, but without denying their origins” (P. Fischli, as quoted in J. Heiser, "The Odd Couple," Frieze, London October 2006, unpaged, http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/the_odd_couple/).