In the video work Corner Piece, 2002–3, Paul Pfeiffer digitally manipulates television footage from a boxing match. The artist concentrates on the intervals between rounds that punctuate the fight, during which the athlete is treated for injuries by his trainer. The image of the principal figure, however, is expunged, while the action that unfolds around him remains visible. Echoing the structure of the boxing ring, the video is projected on a monitor, forcing each individual viewer to crowd into a corner in order to see it. Evoking the dynamics of a close-range encounter, the artist thus manages to create a claustrophobic situation. Drawing mainly on television broadcasts of sporting events, in his works Pfeiffer reflects on collective myths, focusing primarily on those that dominate the imagination of television audiences in the United States. In particular, the artist analyzes the complex level of construction of the public image of famous athletes and sport celebrities. Pfeiffer’s working method consists of appropriating existing material, erasing the player or the athlete, and subsequently elaborating the resulting images to create videos and photographs. The insistence on this process of cancellation contradicts the centrality entrusted to the role that Western art grants the human figure, which Pfeiffer, instead, reduces to a sort of “disturbance” in the context of the digital transmission. Carrying out another operation of removal, Pfeiffer erases the theatrical dimension related to the event in question, paving the way for an intimate and almost hypnotic experience of the work. His videos are often mounted in continuous loops and transmitted on small monitors. In addition, in manipulating the conditions of dialogue with the viewer, Pfeiffer also designs the wall brackets and metal structures that support the monitors, creating installations that have a strong sculptural presence.
The works of Paul Pfeiffer analyze the complex level of construction that composes the images and protagonists of the mass-media universe. The artist’s working method consists of appropriating existing material, often parts of television broadcasts on sporting events. By digitally elaborating these fragments the artist redirects the spectators’ attention towards a new message. Boxing, baseball, and hockey matches are the material chosen by the artist insofar as they are an exemplary model of transforming everything into a spectacle built for consumption by an enormous viewing audience. From these recordings Pfeiffer erases the players or the athletes, the protagonists of the event, and elaborates the resulting images that are then broadcast on small screens (the artist also designs the wall brackets and metal structures that support them). The insistence on this process of cancellation contradicts the centrality entrusted to the role of the human figure in the history of Western art. On the other hand, the attention paid to the sporting events manifests a reflection on collective myths, especially those that dominate the imaginary of American TV audiences. The artist elaborates his videos in such a way as to broadcast them in a loop. Together with the peculiar sculptural apparatus that accompanies them, Pfeiffer creates the conditions for establishing a direct dialogue with his audience, paving the way for an intimate and almost hypnotic experience of the work. [M.B.]
List of Works
Corner Piece, 2002–2003
video installation, DVD, color, sound, loop, monitor, metal structure, 23 3/5 x 23 3/5 x 39 2/5 in.
Permanent loan of the Region of Piedmont
The work is constructed like a sculpture that obliges the visitor to draw near the image appearing on a small monitor. Mounted on three wall brackets, the work presents a video, the digital elaboration of footage from a boxing match during which the athlete is medicated. As in most of his works, the artist extracts the image of the protagonist, thereby exposing his nature as a constructed figure for the use and consumption of viewing audiences.