Mario Pfeifer,
Approximation in the digital age to a humanity condemned to disappear

Mario Pfeifer’s Approximation in the digital age to a humanity condemned to disappear is on display in the John Joyce pop-gallery on the Gateshead quayside until the 21st of November. It is the artist’s first major solo exhibition in the UK, presented by CIRCA Projects. The show houses an amalgamation of works created during a 4 month expedition to southernmost Chile on Isla Navarino, and is a great example of a multi-disciplinary artist displaying works of the highest quality. A three channel video installation with the most alluring soundtrack, cinematography that will leave you breathless and an abundance of information dealing with the drastic cultural and industrial changes happening to Isla Navarino are all eagerly awaiting your arrival a stones throw away from BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

Living in a culture of constant change we are often unaware of how many changes are happening at once: but if we were to live in a place like Navarino, even a small change has the potential to disrupt a cultural mentality. During Pfeifers 4 month long stint in the southernmost city of the world an astonishing amount of experiences were gathered and artwork made, but for the first two months Pfeifer wouldn’t even point a camera at his hosts. Two months the artist observed, embraced and involved himself in all matters and manners that the inhabitants experience on a daily basis. Looking at manual and industrial labour, the remnants of the indigenous Yaghan people in Katushaiwa and exploring the nightlife on the edge of the world are just a few of the activities Pfeifer involved himself in. When the cameras were finally set up to film, they captured some of the most immersive and alluring scenes you are likely to see this year.

The three channel video system contains images of beautiful landscapes untouched by man, and the cold, bleak industrial docks of the island. Packing and shipping crabs caught by the local fisherman, the natives have evolved from their recent-past tribal nature and into the the industrial world. A lonely native sits in his metal shack with a 1.5litre bottle of Coca Cola clearly visibly, as if the product placement had been purposely on show. This isn’t the case, it’s only due to capitalisation’s bold colours and abrupt branding that it stands out so prominently. Pfeifer uses this to cleverly show how infectious the global brands are, and how far they can really reach.

It isn’t just the narratives that take centre stage, it’s the people too. Their tools were previously harpoons, and Pfeifer has a replica showing just past the front entrance that emphasises the ‘Museum Culture’ of defining a large community of people with just a few mere tools. ‘Approximation’ revels in it’s authenticity, and with Pfeifer becoming part of the community as opposed to just observing it, he has been privileged enough to see the true true sides to both the Yaghans and the city folk. Beyond is information on how the island’s religious, social and political landscape has changed so quickly. Although not displayed in the best light, Pfeifer presents information on monetisation, globalisation and imperialism since anthropological expeditions began in albums that  capture this research well.

Mario Pfeifer’s Approximation in the digital age to a humanity condemned to disappear continues at CIRCA Projects until 21 November 2015

Image: Installation view, Mario Pfeifer ‘Approximation in the digital age to a humanity condemned to disappear’, CIRCA Projects, 2015

Published 10.11.2015 by Rachel McDermott in Reviews

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