Paul Pfeiffer

August 29, 2001 - October 28, 2001


New York-based media artist Paul Pfeiffer exhibits recent video work in the Museum's Lobby Gallery. Pfeiffer's video installations explore the relationship of cultural icons to history, memory, and disappearance.

Hammer Projects are curated by James Elaine.

About the Exhibition

By Hilton Als


Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love, a film shot and edited in Hong Kong and Angkor Wat over a period of two years and released in the U.S. earlier this year, is one of the finest, most moving examples we have in popular cinema of the way silence closes in on us and seals our fate. Language not spoken, gestures not expressed—the complete or near absence of the standard tools of "communication"—determines the rhythm of the film, which is composed around the stops and starts framing an "impossible" love as well as the deeply mysterious intractability of the principal characters, who become, in every sense other than the physical, lovers. Lovers—Wong Kar Wai treats this term or concept as successfully and artificially and beautifully as the costumes worn in In the Mood for Love, or the ingenious sets inhabited by noisy gossips, or some woman crying in a far-off room while mah-jongg tiles are slapped down on flimsy card tables by much-too-busy landladies. In addition to being "in love," our movie lovers are detectives in the house of love: their respective spouses are having an affair. What, our on-screen lovers wonder, must that be "like"? Their imaginations can only fill in the blanks left by their spouses’ deceit. The only truth they recognize in what is essentially a philosophical proposition—what does infidelity mean, or for that matter, what does fidelity mean?—is themselves, of course, and the terrible knowledge none of us can face: love doesn’t fill absences but deepens them.


One can feel the deepening of love—and the holes left open by need—in Paul Pfeiffer’s work, which, altogether, bears some resemblance to In the Mood for Love in that the central trope in his videos and installations is not, as is often said, the spectator’s gaze, but the spectator’s desire, those eyes and hearts that cannot be filled up, despite the excess of crap produced to that end: movies, Marilyn Monroe, the "shock" of the toilet flushing in Alfred Hitchcock’s brilliant film Psycho, boxers dancing in a ring, intending harm—spectator sports all. "The roses seriously intend to grow says the gaze . . . / Oh, tell me the truth about love," W. H. Auden wrote. More

Hilton Als is a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine. He is the author of Don't Explain, a film project with the artist Darryl Turner.


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