The Way Things Go

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The Way Things Go
Directed byPeter Fischli and David Weiss
Written byPeter Fischli and David Weiss
Release date
Running time
30 mins.

The Way Things Go (German: Der Lauf der Dinge) is a 1987 art film by the Swiss artist duo Peter Fischli and David Weiss. It documents a long causal chain assembled of everyday objects, resembling a Rube Goldberg machine.


The art installation was in a warehouse, about 100 feet long, and incorporated materials such as tires, trash bags, ladders, soap, oil drums, old shoes, water, and gasoline. Fire and pyrotechnics were used as chemical triggers. The film is nearly 29 minutes, 45 seconds long, but some of that is waiting for something to burn, dissolve, or slowly slide down a ramp. The film is presented as a single sequence of events, but careful observation reveals over two dozen film edits.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3] Signer's videos often document objects performing simple actions that are the result of physical phenomena.

Copyright dispute with Honda[edit]

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.[4] 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.[5]


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 December 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 June 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.

As of February 2016, the film is being shown at The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse in Miami, FL, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, NY, United States.

Between June 2016 and August 2017, the film is being shown as part of Masterworks from the Hirshhorn Collection, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. The Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona organised a temporary exhibit under the name The way things do during summer 2017, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the film.

Between December 2017 and April 2018, the film is being shown at the exhibition "Gravity. Imaging the universe after Einstein" at the MAXXI museum in Rome, Italy.

The film is also available on DVD.



  1. ^ Millar, Jeremy (2007). Fischli and Weiss : The way things go. London: Afterall. pp. 35–36. ISBN 9781846380358.
  2. ^ Danto, Arthur C. “'Fischli/Weiss': Play/Things.” In Peter Fischli and David Weiss: In a Restless World. Edited by Janet Jenkins and Kathleen McLean (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1996). Page 103.
  3. ^ Mack, Gerhard. “'Modulations of Time and Space': The Work of Roman Signer.” In Roman Signer. (London: Phaidon, 2006). Page 86.
  4. ^ Cozens, Claire (2003-05-27). "Acclaimed Honda ad in copycat row". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-04-22.
  5. ^ "Close-Up: Live issue - When copywriting ends and copyright begins". Campaign. October 19, 2007. Retrieved 2015-03-03.

Further reading[edit]

  • Millar, Jeremy; Fischli and Weiss: The way things go (One Work series); London: Afterall (2007); ISBN 9781846380358

External links[edit]