Cat videos may be the foundation that the Internet is built on, but before the Keyboard Cat and the Yaaas Cat stole hearts around the world, there was a short film by Peter Fischli and David Weiss called Büsi (Kitty). The 2001 short captures a black-and-white cat lapping up milk without a care for the humans shoving a camera in its face. Throughout the rest of February, the video will be shown on Times Square’s iconic NBC Astrovision screen every night for a few moments before midnight.
The video is being presented as part of Midnight Moment, a monthly presentation organized by the Times Square Arts that showcases a different video on Times Square’s electronic billboards every month. Since 2012, the program has taken over every video screen in Times Square for the three minutes before midnight to show the same short video, which have included Ori Gersht’s Big Bang, Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests 1964-66, and Os Gemeos’ Parallel Connection.
This isn’t the first time Büsi graced Times Square with its indifferent cat. The short was originally cut from footage in Fischli and Weiss’ 96-hour-long film 1995 installation, Untitled (Venice Work). A snippet focusing solely on the milk-lapping cat was commissioned in 2001 for The 59th Minute project, where it was first shown on the Astrovision screen, Munro writes.
On the surface, the video might seem silly, but Fischli says that he and Weiss never intended it as a joke.
"Büsi was not made as a discussion about kitsch. There was just something super-nice about this cat that we were attracted to,” Fischli said in a statement. “To do something that's more spectacular than what's going on in Times Square would be impossible. We wanted to do something very simple and quiet: it was a logical step for us.”
Fischli and Weiss worked together as creative partners for 33 years before Weiss’ death in 2012. The two often featured animals in their work, particularly in their masked alter egos as a bear and a rat.
“Büsi sits amongst Fischli & Weiss' explorations of the ordinary as extraordinary and the extraordinary as ordinary,” Sherry Dobbin, Times Square Arts' director of public art, said in a statement. “This cat can easily represent the everyday triumph that any of us feel living in the density of this metropolis, taking one's time amongst the frenzy of media messaging.”