“Untitled (Suspended Line of Fruit),” (2012). “Frozen Pioneer,” (2009).“Portrait of a Single Raindrop,” (2003).“Frozen,” (1998).“Untitled (Bread House),” (2004-05). Installation view, “Urs Fischer,” The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Courtesy the artist and The Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Stefan Altenburger.
Urs Fischer and various artists. “YES,” installation view, “Urs Fisher.” Courtesy of The Modern The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Courtesy the Artist and the Museum of contemporary Art. Photo: Stefan Altenburger.
“Horses Dream of Horses,” (2004).“Portrait of a Single Raindrop,” (2003). “Untitled (Floor Piece),” (2006). Installation view, “Urs Fischer,” The Museum of Contemporay Art, Los Angeles. Courtesy the Artist and the Museum of contemporary Art. Photo: Stefan Altenburger.
“Untitled,” (2011). Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery. Photo: Mats Nordman.
“Tomorrow,” (2010). Courtesy the artist. Photo: Mats Nordman
“Kratz,” (2011). Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery, Paris. Photo: Stefan Altenburger.
“Untitled,” (2011). Installation view, “ILLUMInazioni/ILLUMInations,” Venice Biennale, 2011. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Stefan Altenburger.
The Laws of Disorder & Control
Urs Fischer’s immersive mid-career survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles was underrated. Met with derision from several corners of the art world for what many thought was the museum kowtowing to Fischer’s collectors, like Peter Morton—who funded much of the show—and others who felt that Fischer’s gestures were empty, the actual show highlighted much of what makes Fischer so enigmatically interesting. Walls were built in the galleries only to have massive holes cut in them; a Hansel and Gretel-style house made of bread crumbled to bits; sculptural raindrops created an Instagram-ready sense of wonderment. But most impressive was the Geffen Contemporary project in which Fischer dropped what must have been tons of clay on the institution and invited anyone who wanted to participate in making sculptures throughout the building. Walking through the sea of unfired clay monuments, which cracked and decayed and crumbled to dust, the viewer was left wondering:
Who made this mess?
But that’s the beauty of Fischer’s work: it’s a bit of a mess, but it is so without apology.
Once you start something, it just seems to move forward without fear. Is that correct? Once you start, things make themselves, you know? They have their own logic. That’s what I usually try to follow. I don’t think it’s a universal logic. Some things have a more universal logic, and other things are tactile with form. You can change it with your mind, with your hands, however.
So, you’re not adherent or strict if something changes. As a sculptor, you use a lot of materials, and those kinds of materials have a mind of their own. I think that’s a really important part of your work in the sense that it does change, and certain things are impossible according to the laws of the universe. Everything has order—language, laws, thoughts, your soul. Something’s always about order, even if it’s a disorder or a balance. I think in some ways a lot of materials have a certain order to them. One way to deal with that is to guide it. The other way is to try to control it or force it. You always do both in your life—it’s the same if you make art. It always works better when you guide it. It’s a gentle approach. And when you control it, you kill or suffocate a lot of possibilities.
It sounds like you’re against the idea of control and you’re more interested in allowing the universe to let itself fall into place. It’s just a personal approach. I’m not against anything. A lot of art at the moment is very theory-based, where it can’t be explained. It’s exciting as a thought process, but as a thing itself, I don’t think it communicates much to me. Information is not contained in the art; information is removed from the art piece and is something separate. There is more and more art where there is an artwork, and then there is information that is outsourced out of the artwork into language. Language allows the artist to be in control. Art is something that is confusing or not satisfying and hardly ever entertaining, but we all like art. This aspect of control through language and theory arrives more and more, which makes sense, because more and more people are involved in art that actually don’t do art. It’s not only about the art or the artist, it’s about many other feelings or other interests people have. It’s a weird thing that is happening at the moment that I’m totally not against or pro, it’s just that I’m a little more old school. The great thing about art is that you can put it in art form. It’s very different than when you put it in words.
What are the main ideas you’re interested in exploring at the moment? The clay at MOCA—there are many frustrations and thoughts that I have about authorship in art. A lot of gallery shows in New York remind me of figure skating. You have this room, like an ice rink, in which you are supposed to do this and that. And we all do this, and you make another show, and there is an agreed form to it. There is an idea of an authorship, and recognizing who the author is. I really think, in some ways, that everyone is an artist. Creativity is an open thing. The ego is usually what’s in the way. All our egos—all that we become, what we strive for, what we want to be—are not actually very open. The joy of seeing everyone doing something, and removing yourself as an author by setting up a framework—for me, that’s the moment that’s most interesting. It’s something that I really like to think about, where art becomes less of an exclusive scenario and more of an inclusive scenario.
What factors influenced your development as an artist? I’m really happy that I started showing really young, at 21. In Switzerland, it’s a much smaller scenario. Back then, there were not many galleries and one Kunsthalle-type place, and I made my first couple of shows there, and then maybe at a little space somewhere else like the Netherlands or England. It was gradual. I had a lot of time to do whatever I do, and for me that was very nice. In New York, you have one show, and people are like, ‘Wow, it’s the greatest thing.’ It’s very difficult to develop under these circumstances, where all the attention gets shifted and people don’t really care about art, they care about opportunities.
Do you feel you’ve matured from any subjects you once felt strongly about? I try to go away from anger. I’m still bitter at times, I’m an angry-type person, and I make, at times, angry work. But I’m more conscious. Anger is maybe the wrong description of how I felt back then, but it’s more like, when you start off you go against everything. It’s just what you do when you’re young. Everything is crap, and everything old is terrible, and you just want new. Now, I really enjoy medieval and ancient sculpture. I never could have imagined that I’d be interested in, for example, old churches.
Per the Music Issue, what’s your playlist? Last week, I listened to the Mystery Train soundtrack. I have a thing recently for strange, bluesy R&B. Last month, I was listening a lot to Lee Fields’ My World. Albert Collins’ Ice Pickin’ is another one. I bought it because of the cover, but it’s a super album. I was listening to the Tron soundtrack by Daft Punk. I kind of neglected it when it came out, but then I totally got into it as a background thing.