Mario Pfeifer’s work centres on narratives often forced out of our frames of vision. In this, his first solo exhibition in Canada, the filmmaker presents a trilogy of video installations. Demonstrating a profound commitment to the stories of individuals and communities, Pfeifer sees himself as an intermediary to bring uncovered stories to broader attention. He immerses himself in the domains in which he works so as to present them in all their complexity and contradiction.
#blacktivist (2015) is a two-channel video installation produced in collaboration with Brooklyn rap group Flatbush ZOMBiES. The work brings together Pfeifer’s music video for the group’s track Blacktivist with found imagery and interviews in a startling critique of contemporary gun violence. Footage of ‘Defense Distributed’, a Texan organization notorious for developing plans for the first DIY 3D-printed handgun, is brought together with disturbing imagery of police brutality, as well as a surreal narrative charting the Flatbush ZOMBiES’ own imagined response.
The footage at the heart of the three-channel installation Approximation in the digital age to a humanity condemned to disappear (2014) was filmed over a period of four months with the Yaghan people in Tierra del Fuego, Chile. Presenting an indigenous community forced to abandon or adapt their traditions as a result of settlers, anthropologists, tourists and the demands of global capitalism, Approximation brings together high-resolution imagery of the contemporary activities of the community with a soundtrack by Iranian born American electronic sound artist, producer and musician Kamran Sadeghi.
Pfeifer’s most recent work, Again (2018), which debuted at the 10th Berlin Biennale, confronts attitudes to immigration and justice in the artist’s home country of Germany. Playing on the format of television crime re-enactments, the two-channel video installation restages the sequence of events involving Schabas Saleh Al-Aziz, a Kurdish-Iraqi refugee in Germany who was tied to a tree by four local men following what they perceived as violent behaviour in a supermarket. Charting his tragic fate and the polarizing media response that followed, Pfeifer’s work uses reconstruction and public responses to expose rising xenophobia and racial division.
Connecting to each of these works, Pfeifer has been commissioned by Contact Photography Festival and The Power Plant to produce a billboard outside the gallery depicting the Tierra del Fuego landscape. The artist’s overlaid text, reiterating the exhibition’s title, serves to indicate his open-ended approach, expressing a resistance to preconceived conclusions and his perpetual interest in inviting us to question our own standpoint in relation to the content of his works. One cannot see these works with indifference; instead, they compel us to think of our own behaviour and prejudices.
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