I first came across this artwork in the form of a print during the Phillips Auctioneers, Prints & Multiples view in London last summer. This artwork really spoke to me at the time and I have been thinking about its manifesto during the lockdown even more.
Advanced Typography Final at Parsons School of Design – by Julia Lassen
At first glance the traditional distinctions between high and low art caught my attention with this piece. After reading the ten-point list of simple statements – it really struck a chord, as it made me stop and think again about why I do what I do? In our digital era, where the commercial landscape is ever present and the very nature of work is being redefined, I found the ten witty statements humorously direct. The next day I wrote out the points and stuck it on the wall of my workspace, and encourage you to do the same.
How to Work Better is a readymade artwork by Swiss art duo Peter Fischli (b. 1952) and David Weiss (1946-2012). With a sincere curiosity about human nature and wonder in the everyday, the artist’s behind the work embraced new possibilities for encounters with art.
How to Work Better’s ten-point list of simple statements suggests that “working better” is as much about an approach to everyday life as it is about productivity. The artists originally appropriated the text from a sign found in a ceramic factory in Thailand nearly three decades ago. Since then, the piece has taken different forms, from postcards to screen prints to book covers to being been hand-painted on a building on Houston Street at the corner of Mott Street in Lower Manhattan. Most famously, the artists first installed it as a mural on an office building in Zurich in 1991. It was also the title of the artist’s retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
The simple yet clichéd statements used to motivate workers in a factory faraway have become a widely circulated ethos – with copies similar to my own found taped to the walls and desks of many artists and curators who have adopted the rules as a guide for how to work in the studio and the art world. Even observed without the history of the mural, the artwork speaks to the modern notion of always being busy, a reminder to slow down rather than rush through each subsequent task and remember to smile – especially during these tough times.
Text by Peigi Mackillop