Peter Fischli and David Weiss Bring Giant ‘Kitty’ to Times Square

Is this the original viral cat video?

Still courtesy of Times Square Arts.

Years before videos of cats being cats become their own viral video genre, Peter Fischli and David Weiss created Büsi (Kitty), a 2001 short in which a cat coolly laps milk from a saucer, effusing the kind of inimitable nonchalance that makes cats great. For three minutes before midnight each night in February, you’ll be able to watch an impervious cat not give a damn about your presence on a giant screen in New York’s Times Square.

The film is an excerpt from the pair’s epic 96-hour video installation Untitled (Venice Work), which appeared at the 1995 Venice Biennale. In 2001, Creative Time commissioned the cat footage for The 59th Minutea celebration of video art that also screened in Times Square at the time. The pair’s upcoming Guggenheim survey, which opens February 5, will feature all 96 hours of footage on display in the Aye Simon Reading Room.

However, the art duo is not out for cheap laughs. “Büsi was not made as a discussion about kitsch,” Fischli said in a statement. “There was just something super-nice about this cat that we were attracted to.”

Fischli and Weiss worked collaboratively for 33 years until Weiss’s death in 2012, and often adopted animal alter egos—a rat and a bear—in their artworks as way of setting up a notion of themselves as “polar opposites.” But taking on midtown Manhattan is a challenge, regardless of the subject matter.

“To do something that’s more spectacular than what’s going on in Times Square would be impossible” Fischli recalls. “We wanted to do something very simple and quiet: it was a logical step for us.”

Büsi (Kitty) will play every night from February 1–29 at 11:57 in Times Square as part of the Times Square Arts Midnight Moment program. 

Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better” will be on display at the Guggenheim from February 5–April 27.

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