Paul Pfeiffer(b. 1966)
The Pure Products Go Crazy (1998)
Fragment of a Crucifixion (After Francis Bacon) (1999)
John 3:16 (2000)
Prologue to the Story of the Birth of Freedom (2000)
The Long Count (I Shook Up The World) (2000)
Long Count (Thrilla in Manila) (2001)
The Long Count (Rumble In The Jungle) (2001)
Orpheus Descending (2001)
Three Studies of Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (2001)
Sex Machine (2001)
Race Riot (2001)
Morning After the Deluge (2001)
Live Evil (Kuala Lumpur) (2002)
Live Evil (Copenhagen) (2002)
Live Evil (Auckland) (2002)
Goethe's Message to the New Negroes (2002)
Paul Pfeiffer was born in Honolulu in 1966 and grew up in the Philippines. He received a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1987 and an MFA from Hunter College in New York in 1994. He then participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program (1997–98). In his photographs and video installations, which often have religious titles, Pfeiffer utilizes new technology to destabilize the experience of viewing, whether through the erasure of the central athlete in sports spectacles or by splicing scenes so as to trap figures in endless repetition. For example, in The Pure Products Go Crazy (1998), Tom Cruise is stuck perpetually wiggling about in his underwear in the iconic scene from Risky Business. In Fragment of a Crucifixion (after Francis Bacon) (1999), basketball player Larry Johnson’s repeated triumphant roars become ambiguous cries of either torment or exhilaration. Basketball heroes are erased from their courts in the digital films John 3:16 (2000) and Three Studies of Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (2001). Similarly, in the film trilogy The Long Count (2000–01), Pfeiffer removes Muhammad Ali and his opponents from the footage of the boxer’s three career-defining fights, leaving behind only specters cast hazily across the packed stands and an empty boxing ring. Such momentous events are rendered unmonumental through the eradication of central figures and the tiny scale in which the films are shown, often no larger than a postcard. In the series Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (2001), bodies remain but identities disappear in large-scale photographs of the backs of basketballs players in plain white uniforms devoid of the team colors and the last name of the player.
Pfeiffer referenced climactic scenes from classic horror movies such as The Exorcist in Quod Nomen Mihi Est? (1998), Psycho in Self-Portrait as a Fountain (2000), and The Amityville Horror in Dutch Interior (2001), employing sculpture and video to suggestively position the viewer amid the nightmare. In other films, Pfeiffer inventively scrutinized such diverse subjects as the artistic trope of the sunrise/sunset in Morning after the Deluge (2001), the life cycle of wasps in Empire (2004), and Michael Jackson’s confession to bringing children into his bed in Live from Neverland (2006). His recent work explicitly confronts the exploitation of the subject before the camera, for example revealing a gorilla forced to perform in Koko (2007).
Solo exhibitions of Pfeiffer’s work have been shown at the UCLA Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (2001), Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (2002), Museum of Contemporary Art in Honolulu (2003), Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (2003), Museum of Art at Middlebury College, Vermont (2005), and Thyssen Bornemisza Art Contemporary at Kunstzone Karlsplatz Technische Universitat in Vienna (2008). His work has also been included in major exhibitions such as Whitney Biennial (2000), Venice Biennale (2001), SITE Santa Fe (2003), The Shapes of Space at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (2007), and the Sydney Biennial (2008). Pfeiffer lives and work in New York City.