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the table slants forward and a strange vehicle made out of a large potato, some crudecardboardwheelsand two ferocious knives lurches down the table top, which has now become an inclined ramp. The potato-tank encounters an obstacle in the form of a sheet of ice or something equally brittle. By virtue of its weight, the juggernaut chews its way through the brittle plane. Theseriesof eventscontinues and the artists use all means at their disposal to propagate the bump, grind, push and slide of objects of all shapes, consistencies and sizes. We are drawn into the action on at least two levels; we try to predict the outcome of the next bizarre contraption and we begin to empathize with the odd collection of junk, feeling elation for objects as they overcome obstacles, or feeling pathos for those that are destroyed. The Fischli-Weiss performance resonates with many antecedents. One is reminded of medieval alchemists who used the four elements to probe the secrets of nature. One is also reminded of Japanese domino-fallingcontests inwhich hundreds of thousands of dominoes topple on one another with formidable accuracy. Calder’s circus,too, isa distant forebear of Fischliand Weiss’s mechanical universe. Calder made no attempt to disguise the humble origins of his circus performers (now on permanent display at the Whitney Museum). Calder’s scrapsof cork, cloth, wire, sheet metal and string occupy as lowly a station in life as the Swiss artists’ miscellaneous scrap. Like the performers in Calder’s circus, the objects orchestratedby Fischli and Weiss always seem to be threatened by mechanical vicissitudes: we ask, Will the wooden step ladder,which hasjust set off down a ramp at a thoroughly unlikely waddle, actually get to the end without overturning? Will it work? Why should the activities of these sad, used-up household objects hold any interest for an audience? Perhaps it is because, in the installation and the film, we can sensethe artists’ cleverintentions, their intelligenceand planning, and at the same time we see the brute recalcitrance of the objects themselves. The audience recognizes the possibility that the objects may not cooperate in the elegant scheme proposed by the artists. As missiles veer from their truepaths,asobjects bounding down chutes threaten to leap containing walls, we feel the independent will of the materials themselves. The soundtrackfor the film is composed of the creaks, groans, rustlings and hissings of the objects as they ‘perform’. These noises are a little like the roars and bellows of trained circusanimalswho, whilebending their kneesto thecrack of theringmaster’s whip, give voice to their own grudging acquiescence. Fischli and Weissclaimthat their work has a moral dimension: An object isguilty whenit stops moving and also guilty when it keeps moving. None of our objects, then, is innocent, and since each object has been tended to personally, we too are implicated in these issues.. ..we are simultaneously the devoted servants of the objects and their amoral exploiters @. 16). The ethical issues involved in watching a balloon deflate or a steel bar roll through honey seem murky. Perhaps the artists are making these metaphysical claims with tongue in cheek? Whether or not the moral dimensions of the work are easily deciphered, there is no doubt that the artists’ ingenuity and playfulness are easily observed by anyone with the desire to watch and enjoy this witty spectacle. THE NEW GENERATION AND ARTISTIC MODERNISM IN THE UKRAINE by Myroslava M. Mudrak. UMI Press, Ann Arbor, MI, U.S.A., 1986. 282 pp., illus.Trade,$44.95.ISBN:0-8357-1687-2. Reviewed by Leon Tsao, Earth Science Division, LawrenceBerkeleyLaboratory, 1 Cyclotron Rd., Berkeley, CA 94720, U.S.A. Ukrainian culture has an undeserved reputation for backwardness, both in the Great Russian cultural sphere and in the West. The contributions of the sculptor Archipenko, the filmmaker Dovzhenko, the mathematician ’Banach and the engineer Zworykin to world culture are solid refutationsof this notion. Myroslava Mudrak gives a close view of a period of Ukrainian cultural history in which Ukrainian artists aspired to and a few attained a place on the leading edge of world cultural development. Mudrak weavesa tapestry of the different artsand the personalities to giveus a picture of the social environment...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
pp. 332-333
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-04
Open Access
No
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