Chapter 9. Es Geht Um Die Wurst: On Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s Sausage Photographs
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159 Chapter 9 Es Geht Um Die Wurst On Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s Sausage Photographs Edward A. Vazquez In Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s Fashion Show, one of ten photographs made in 1979 as part of the Swiss artists’ first collaborative project,Wurstserie, known in English as the Sausage Photographs,five models confidently saunter across a catwalk, their fashions as coordinated as their nonchalant, sideways glances (Plate 9.1). The photograph, unsurprisingly, offers little in the way of information on the latest trends from Paris or Milan, instead picturing a playfully idiosyncratic scene built in miniature from everyday foods and kitchen items. Both models and clothing are made of processed meats—plump sausage bodies draped in a variety of cold cuts—and accessorized with bottle caps,bits of plastic,the odd peanut shell,and a twisted piece of pink tissue paper. Somehow the sausages manage the characteristically blasé look of the runway model, disinterested and even a little aloof, without having faces to speak of, as their eyes, noses, and mouths are mostly implied by the round ends of casing pre-crimped with small metal bands (though pairs of tacks pressed into the soft meat of two sausages do gaze obliquely beyond the frame of the photograph). Set against a water-spotted bathroom mirror these bedecked sausages, whose bottom ends have all been cut flat for balance, are poised on a small, pink, wooden ledge carpeted with uniformly sliced squares of cheese and accented with three sprigs of curly parsley. As with a proper fashion show,Fischli andWeiss staged this scene 160 The Kitchen for the camera, even as they chose not to hide the marks of daily use particular to its setting.Visible through the white spots of dried water droplets (and perhaps toothpaste) are the tanks,pipes,and other trappings of a domestic bathroom, these reflections and residues visually underlining the orchestrated specificity and general haphazardness that combine in this perversely staged catwalk. Though kitchen items and foodstuffs feature in most of the Sausage Photographs,Fischli and Weiss made use of various locations in the home to stage the different scenes and the choice of a bathroom mirror seems particularly noteworthy in this instance.If bringing food into the toilet is both mischievous and unappetizing,then it is equally true that dressing up sausages in the latest Aufschnitt echoes the daily practice of getting ready to leave the house—applying make-up, tying a tie, brushing one’s hair or teeth—or even more so, vamping it up for a night out on the town. The meat models thus underscore the rituals that interlace outward appearance and private persona. That a line of five plump sausages placed upon an irregularly laid flooring of sliced cheese along a bathroom mirror can even broach larger themes of gender construction or of projected identity—more explicitly suggested in an alternate title for the photograph,Vain Crowd!—is precisely to the point.As curator and art historian Lynne Cooke has written, in the series as a whole “impish inquiry,disarming understatement,dexterous improvisation, and makeshift materials again and again serve as the means by which big questions are writ small, as the miniature becomes the vehicle for the metaphysical.”1 Through these particular stagings, household items are held open to, and become vehicles for, the potential of new associations and imaginative projections. To be sure: Fischli and Weiss are playing with their food, and humor, sometimes dark, courses through these images. Whether gherkins carefully appraise the patterns in stacks of sliced meats as if selecting a Persian carpet in In the Carpet Shop (Plate 9.6), cigarette butts rubberneck at the scene of a grizzly sausage-car accident in An Accident, or the inside of an oven is repurposed as a Paleolithic cave dwelling in With the Cavepeople, these scenes encourage laughter in the recognition of their narratives and references (Plate 9.2). Readers of the Washington Post could well see the Sausage Photographs as prototypes for that newspaper’s annual Peep Show, Es Geht Um Die Wurst 161 begun in 2007, in which readers submit humorous, historical, and often outlandish scenes made with Peeps, the popular American chick-shaped,sugar-coated,and brightly colored marshmallow Easter candy.2 With Peeps and sausage, as Fischli once commented in reference to the film The Way Things Go (1987), which follows a Rube Goldberg machine-like series of events in the studio,“objects are freed from their principal, intended purpose. Perhaps...


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