The Way Things Go  

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The Way Things Go (1987, German: Der Lauf der Dinge) is an art film by Swiss artist duo Peter Fischli and David Weiss. The film documents an impressively long causal chain assembled of everyday objects. On the one hand, it resembles a Rube Goldberg machine which doesn't perform a practical task, on the other, a domino show.



The machine is in a warehouse, about 100 feet long, and incorporates materials such as tires, trash bags, ladders, soap, oil drums, and gasoline. Gravity, chemical reactions, fire and pyrotechnics are some of the elements used. The film is nearly 29 minutes, 45 seconds long, but some of that is waiting for something to burn, or slowly slide down a ramp.

The film evolved out of work the artists did on their earlier photography series, "Quiet afternoon," (German: Stiller Nachmittag) of 1984-1985. As the delicately unstable assemblages they constructed for the photos were apt to almost immediately collapse, they decided that they wanted to make use of this energy. The film may also have been inspired by the video work of fellow Swiss artist, Roman Signer. The artists undoubtedly saw his video work which was exhibited at the Kunsthaus Zürich in 1981. Signer's videos often document objects performing simple actions that are the result of physical phenomena.

Copyright dispute with Honda

In May 2003, Fischli and Weiss threatened legal action against Honda over similarities between the Cog commercial and The Way Things Go. The artists felt that the ad's creators had "obviously seen" their film, and should have consulted them. Fischli and Weiss had refused several requests to use the film for commercial purposes, though Honda claimed that this was irrelevant as their permission was not needed to create new works with some elements similar to their previous works. Honda's advertising firm Wieden+Kennedy eventually admitted to copying a sequence of weighted tires rolling uphill. The controversy was blamed for denying Cog a Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.


The movie was a public highlight of the documenta 8 in Kassel, Germany (June - September 1987), and is on permanent exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and in the Museum Wiesbaden in Wiesbaden. It is also part of Centre Georges Pompidou's collection in Paris.

As of 2011, the film was on display in the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, Scotland; the "Sir Isaac's Loft" section of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA; the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen, Denmark; and it was shown on rotation with other short art films at British Columbia's Robson Square Celebration Site outside the Vancouver Art Gallery during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

Until January 2009 it was also shown at the Western Australian Museum in Perth as part of the temporary exhibition "Experimenta Playground". It was also displayed in the summer of 2010 in the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

As of 2014 the film is also being shown at the MALBA in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at the MACM in Montréal, QC, Canada, at the Mead Gallery of the Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry, UK and at the Institut Valencià d'Art Modern (IVAM) in Valencia, Spain.

The film is also available on DVD.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Way Things Go" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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