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Video-chronicles of the island city
Moresha Benjamin  18th May 2013

A still from Pfeifer’s film

ario Pfeifer revealed that during his research he came across instances of class-divide, which he then captured on camera. When one views the clips, it becomes clear that the artist never chose to portray this obtusely. There is no structure or format to the screenings. But one notices that the collective clips have a generous appeal of the colour blue throughout. The screening starts with an ice factory shot where workers are scene lugging large chunks of ice on machines. There is a partition and on the other side there are people who seemed to be dressed well and are sharing some inside jokes. The lack of any conversation between workers and a contrast on the other side, forces you to think of an underlying fabric of class-divide. At the same time, one feels that is portraying what many have portrayed before but through a different medium. But in the next instance, there is a woman shown begging which is an overt representation of class- divide.

The Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan, Mumbai, is organising an exhibition comprising works by

German artist Mario Pfeifer at Project 88 from April 27 to May 28. He came to Mumbai with no specific idea in mind. In the course of his stay, he chanced upon a few instrumental opportunities to work together with like-minded artists. He then stayed back and conceptualised the idea of his present exhibition. Pfeifer says, "I wanted to respond to an unknown cityscape in a reflective way and to build knowledge from the experience of being part of a city and experience with its citizens the diverse cultures and languages."

Attempting at self-reflection, Pfeifer undertook exhaustive research on the collective, urban, cultural and religious significance that his subjects held. While working, he was seldom met with resistance, but inevitably, curiosity marked the reactions of his subjects. He took help of translators and local residents to give form to his 35mm project. He says, "I chose 35mm because it has good colour depth, offers a concentrated working atmosphere and cinema-preferentiality and also because of monetary limits." He adds, "The project led to some very wonderful and memorable collaborations. There was immense trust and the openness and hospitality just left me humbled and intrigued at the same time."

Pfeifer confesses, "This project has been the most complex than any other project that I have undertaken earlier, both content-wise, aesthetically and formally." The artist not only became familiar with the customs and traditions of the communities he captured on film but was also made aware of class issues, customs and biases.

Pfeifer does not have a specific order of play of the clips and he also does not encourage it. He says that his project is fluid and not rigid. He says, "It is open to discussion, interpretation and critique by anyone who watches the exhibition, thus making the experience more of a personal narration." He says, "You can start with not knowing much, and you end up having riveting conversations during the making of the film and later presenting it to a worldwide, diverse audience engaging in further enriching conversations. I find that more of an inspiration for my work than anything else."

The fact that he has showcased locals as actors is clearly evident. But their conversations seem contrived and one cannot help but smirk and remind oneself that it's not a documentary. Pfeifer tries to showcase class-divide, a concept that seems extraneous to him but the execution seems flat due to the absence of a clear focus on a specific topic.

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