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PaulPfeiffer

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 12 months ago

The pure products of America

go crazy--

mountain folk from Kentucky

 

or the ribbed north end of

Jersey

with its isolate lakes and

 

valleys, its deaf-mutes, thieves

old names

and promiscuity between

 

devil-may-care men who have taken

to railroading

out of sheer lust of adventure--

 

and young slatterns, bathed

in filth

from Monday to Saturday

 

to be tricked out that night

with gauds

from imaginations which have no

 

peasant traditions to give them

character

but flutter and flaunt

 

sheer rags succumbing without

emotion

save numbed terror

 

under some hedge of choke-cherry

or viburnum--

which they cannot express--

 

Unless it be that marriage

perhaps

with a dash of Indian blood

 

will throw up a girl so desolate

so hemmed round

with disease or murder

 

that she'll be rescued by an

agent--

reared by the state and

 

sent out at fifteen to work in

some hard-pressed

house in the suburbs--

 

some doctor's family, some Elsie

voluptuous water

expressing with broken

 

brain the truth about us--

her great

ungainly hips and flopping breasts

 

addressed to cheap

jewelry

and rich young men with fine eyes

 

as if the earth under our feet

were

an excrement of some sky

 

and we degraded prisoners

destined

to hunger until we eat filth

 

while the imagination strains

after deer

going by fields of goldenrod in

 

the stifling heat of September

somehow

it seems to destroy us

 

It is only in isolate flecks that

something

is given off

 

No one

to witness

and adjust, no one to drive the car

 

 

William Carlos Williams, "To Elsie" or "The pure products of America / go crazy"

from Spring and all (1923)

 

 

 

Much like his art, even Paul Pfeiffer's name rings with an ethereal familiarity grounded in a misspent adulthood immersed in tv culture. Yes, our visiting artist this week shares his name with Josh Saviano's nerdish character on "The Wonder Years", wherein, week after week, Fred Savage's older, wiser and fictional inner narrator (voiced by Daniel Stern) neatly tied up the loose ends of a late '60s childhood with a kernal of '80s cynicism wrapped in a lyrical and nostalgic lilt of phrase. Paul, the generally faithful next-door neighbor, was never privy to these inner monologs, nor was he granted any of his own. So, he had to try harder, toil away in the magic space between scenes, that silent partner of narrative, until he was allowed back into the main storyline, plot points ironed out and ready for his close up. Paul Pfeiffer, visiting artist, seems to work that same magic space of narrative, but, in his case, he's doing it right in front of our eyes, like a game of three-card monty. And boy, he's more obsessive than Paul Pfeiffer, the awkward middle school teenager, ever dreamed of being. I mean, subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, altering EACH frame of his short animations to either emphasize, say, the basketball, or erase the main characters (as in the Ali fights); that's COMMITMENT. (Most animators I know spend months, if not years, on a single piece; Pfeiffer seems to turn these things out almost overnight, or so it seemed as he shared them with us a few nights ago.)

 

But, beyond the sort of trumped-up, manufactured familiarity of his name (trumped up and manufactured by ME), I also felt many of his ideas were familiar, too. I had to ask myself, just what is the difference (in technique anyway) between Pfeiffer and Dan Reeves (a video artist who, at least 5 or 10 years ago, was already working with that morphing sensibility) or Tony Oursler (another video artist who projects odd videos onto sculptural surfaces) or William Carlos Williams (see epigraph to this post; though where Williams aims for our gut, our bankrupt and proudly illegitimate lusts, I felt that Pfeiffer allowed too much unearned mystery into his tableaux; does the puppet-like dance of his Stanley Cup sufficiently address the thirst for skillful brutality that birthed it? I guess I'm saying "no".) or Lucas Samaras (whose mirrored corridor is in the Denver Art Museum collection, of which I was reminded of by Pfeiffer's peephole corridor)? I'm not saying that I don't have some respect for Pfeiffer's energy and talented manipulation of a wide variety of material (and materiality), just that, but for a moment here and there, it all seemed "overly" derivative (to be distinguished from a certain amount of derivative quality that's sort of inherent in responding to living in the world we're in these days.)

 

That said, I do need to acknowledge that I found the small pieces with imagery that mimicked/referred to religious art to be alternately resonant and (gasp!) moving. Perhaps because my experience of religious art is fairly cursory I didn't care (or know to care) how the specific context of any given appropriated composition/overall suggestion might have related to its new context. All that mattered was that sort of blanket approximation of religious meaning and cultural power. Whereas, when I felt I could sort of place TECHNIQUE among recent work/artists, the newer work lost some juice.

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