KHOJ International Artists’ Association and Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan organised Mario Pfeifer’s first solo exhibition at an Indian institution, presenting his acclaimed and widely exhibited installation project A Formal Film in Nine Episodes, Prologue & Epilogue (2010).
The multiple-channel high-definition video installation, originally shot on 35 mm colour negative, was preceded by extensive on-location research for months in Greater Mumbai. Meticulously framed moving images shot by Avijit Mukul Kishore and a detailed sound scape present a kaleidoscopic view of a megalopolis that is constantly growing and altering. Taking a formal approach to the situations he encountered, Mario Pfeifer reveals societal issues of class, urban change, notions of manual and digital production and attitudes towards religious, cultural and symbolic customs. In the process he declines to provide any explanation or commentary to accompany the scenes he depicts; instead his project offers an open space for spectators to actively and critically engage with the visible on an individual basis, acknowledging that there may be diverse possible readings for audiences. As the members of the audience would have different points of access into the installation, this approach reinforced the idea that cultural backgrounds and experiences together constitute today’s global society and they are shaped by common sources of knowledge production and development.
Composed of mutually independent, self-contained episodes, the installation is of a flexible nature with a combination of episodes, prologue and epilogue, as well as a number of projections. With its images resistant to classification within any clearly defined genre, the film meanders between what are considered documentary and fictive notions of image production, pointing at the difficulties inherent in the act of representation and the artist’s own involvement in a local context he would otherwise not be part of. Within A Formal Film, Mario Pfeifer distances himself from documentarianism and the use of commentaries and instead casts doubts on the social critique that such aesthetics evoke and which itself might appear as a form of colonialist encroachment in today’s globalized society.
Works presented within the exhibition:
A Formal Film in Nine Episodes, Prologue & Epilogue
35mm Film / Multiple-High-Definition-Video-Projection for Exhibition Space, Stereo, Colour, 51 min
Hindi, Tamil with English Subtitles, 2010
A Formal Film in Nine Episodes, Prologue and Epilogue – A Critical Reader
Edited by Susanne Gaensheimer, Bernd Reiß – MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main, Goethe Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan and KOW
(Design by Markus Weisbeck/Surface in collaboration with Kurnal Rawat/Grandmother India
With contributions by Suprio Bhattacharjee, Kaushik Bhaumik, Amira Gad, Susanne Gaensheimer, Nikolaus Hirsch, Ranjit Hoskote, Shanay Jhaveri, Kurnal Rawat, Bernd Reiß, Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Anand Tharanay, Ragunath Vasudevan, Markus Weisbeck and Mario Pfeifer
Research Supervision: Eve Lemesle, Siddhika Lahori, Phalguni Desai
Production Supervision: Anand Tharaney, Neha Bahuguna, Ragunath Vasudevan
Published in Hindi and English by Spector Books, 2013
Hardcover, 300 pages, numerous illustrations in colour, w/ printed dust jacket