The Way Things Go

“Walk in late to a screening of Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s 1987 The Way Things Go (Der Lauf der Dinge), and you might see a strange sight. A black metal barrel rolling slowly forward collides with a wheel joined to a bottle of wine. The wheel-bottle turns, decanting into a saucepot, which rests upon an ersatz seesaw (plank, coffee can). The pot, now brimming, presses down upon the saw like an older, heavier brother catapulting a chair balanced on the opposite end. As the chair falls, so does a broom, which somehow happens to sweep a sublimating white substance between two electrical wires. You know the circuit is now complete as an Edison lamp flickers to life, glowing brighter and brighter until the image is lost to the bleached-out film stock. We could be in the anthropomorphic universe of Walt Disney’s Fantasia: pots and brooms marching to their own rhythms without a human in sight. But instead of ending with a drowning mouse, the inanimate action continues – objects connected, Rube Goldberg style, for no apparent purpose but the consummate pleasure of perpetual motion…”