Thursday, January 7, 2010

live from neverland by paul pfeiffer (2007)

In 2003, twenty-seven million American viewers tuned in to watch “Living with Michael Jackson,” a television documentary in which the singer admitted to having shared his bed with many children. The broadcast elicited an investigation and Jackson’s arrest for charges of sexual abuse, which led to one of the most-documented trials in American history, covered by over 2,000 different media outlets from hundreds of different countries.

Paul Pfeiffer’s Live from Neverland video installation is divided into two separate videos: one soundlessly replaying footage of a televised statement in which Michael Jackson addressed the child-molestation allegations, and a second one featuring a chorus of 80 voices reciting Jackson’s monologue in the manner of a Greek chorus. The two videos are brought into further correspondence by means of a subtle re-syncing of Jackson’s facial gestures to match the spoken delivery of the chorus, down to every pause, inflection and nuance.

In his speech, Jackson positions himself as a victim, reciting a litany of indignities inflicted on him by the police. Seeing a group of people delivering Jackson’s words creates a disturbing dissonance, implying that the star’s suffering is somehow taken up by the group. Pfeiffer takes a familiar mass-media image and reworks it to emphasize underlying tensions between the group and the mute figure, the interdependent relationship between leader and crowd.

This year, Paul Pfeiffer’s work was seen in the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit’s “Meditations in an Emergency.” It will also be featured in “Art in America: 300 Years of Innovation” at the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art and the Shanghai Museum, and “For the Love of the Game” at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Washington, DC. He is completing a project for Artangel in London, and taking part in a residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida. This is his fourth solo exhibition at The Project.

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