Mario Pfeifer’s work explores the structures and conventions in the medium of film, in locations ranging from Mumbai to California to the Western Sahara. He often takes as his starting point the writings and visual works of other contemporary artists and film-makers, such as Jeff Wall, Louis Malle, Lewis Baltz or Michael Haneke. He weaves further cross-cultural art historical and filmic references into his richly layered practice.
In this, the first exhibition in the UK of Pfeifer’s work, CIRCA Projects presented Yet Untitled [“Pieces of Nature”]. In this short film, the artist reveals the relationships between all those typically found on a film set – actors, directors and members of the crew – in a carefully choreographed scene. It appears to be an authentic casting session but culminates in revealing its own artifice, that everyone is, in fact, an actor.
The composition of Yet Untitled [“Pieces of Nature”] refers to the light-box photograph, Picture for Women, 1979, by Jeff Wall, which in itself draws on the famous painting by Edouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1882. Thus Pfeifer’s work neatly spans the history of the visual image in art, from oil painting, to photography, to film, to video.
The exhibition also featured a new photographic work by Pfeifer, ‘Pieces of Nature like Flowers in Water [After Robert Bresson]’, created in response to the moving image work, depicting a bouqette of flowers and produced during the film’s production, Pfeifer reverses Jeff Wall’s practice of making photographs with filmic references; creating a photograph from a moving image work.
The photograph’s title ‘Pieces of Nature like Flowers in Water [After Robert Bresson]’ relates to the French auteur filmmaker Robert Bresson’s ‘Notes on the Cinematographer’ (1975), and specifically his definition of a performer, model or actress. Never calling a performer an actor or actress, it was Bresson who emphasized to call his collaborators “models” by comparing them to “pieces of nature, like flowers in water”.
Born in 1981, in Dresden, lives and works in Berlin and New York. Pfeifer has studied at Städelschule Frankfurt; California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles where he studied under James Benning; University of the Arts, Berlin; and Academy of Visual Arts, Leipzig. He was a Fulbright and DAAD scholar in 2008/2010. In 2010 he was awarded the Video Art Prize (VideoKunstPreis) Bremen. In 2012 Pfeifer will present works in upcoming exhibitions at MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main; The Cultural Centre of Brugge, Belgium; LOOP Barcelona and will complete the work Conversation Piece [Western Sahara], produced during a residency in Morocco. He will be artist-in-residence at ISCP, New York and prepares a solo exhibition with Andrew Roth / PPP Editions, New York.
On 18 April 2012, Pfeifer visited CIRCA Screen to discuss his work with Rebecca Morrill (Head of Collector Development, Contemporary Art Society North East), presenting clips from past and current projects, including Conversation Piece [Western Sahara]. A video of the talk event featuring clips of Pfeifer’s work is available on the channel section of CIRCA Projects’ website.