Paul Pfeiffer’s video installations create a modern pantheon of iconography by reformatting footage from Hollywood films and well-known sporting events to present actors and athletes in moments of extreme emotion. Pfeiffer has referred to his work as ‘video sculpture’, and his images (often only inches in length and width) suggest an intimate tactility in which famous examples of human reactions are held up for scrutiny. State of the art digital manipulation erases people, objects, and sounds from familiar contexts, while Pfeiffer’s bluntly obvious edits draw attention to the work’s production – a twenty-first century equivalent of brushstrokes on a canvas or thumbprints on a photograph.
Built for the British Empire Exhibition of 1924, the successes and failures of England’s self-image have been staged in Wembley Stadium for decades.
Supported by Outset in 2007, ‘The Saints’ was installed by Pfeiffer on the footprint of the original Empire Exhibition – a celebration of the crowd, and a generous examination of stadia as sites of pilgrimage. The heartfelt hymns of patriotism echo around the deserted lots of the surrounding business park, mingling with the half-heard names of players whose reputations were forged at Wembley.
A constellation of hidden speakers plays the chants that soundtrack the absent spectacle of the 1966 World Cup final. Yet video projections reveal a surprising source of the sounds: Pfeiffer invited a crowd of young Filipinos from Manila – an outpost of the Empire; a relic of another faded glory – to cheer on the phantom players.