The Project, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in September 2002
Dusseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordhein-Westfalen, Paul Pfeiffer, June - November 2004, pp. 54-55, illustrated in color
Long Count III (Thrilla in Manila) is from a seminal series of works by Paul Pfeiffer which tremendously redifined and revitalized the medium of video art. With a thematic backdrop of sporting events, Pfeiffer would digitally remove the bodies of the players from the games, shifting our attention to their surroundings- the ominous ring, the gyrating ropes and the cheering spectators. Presented on small LCD screens, these intimate projections become meditations on faith, desire, and a celebrity-obsessed, media-centric contemporary culture. By removing contextual detail, Pfeiffer invites his viewers to exercise their imagination and project their own interpretations and concepts onto the work.
The present work projects the last grueling rounds of the legendary 1975 fight coined the "Thrilla in Manilla." This was the third and final title bout between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier for the Heavyweight Boxing Championship of the World. The climax of a bitter rivalry, it is often referred to as one of the greatest fights of the 20th century. Chalk full of insult, intrigue and media attention and with the backdrop of bi- continental political turmoil, it was not merely a fight between two men but an event on which the whole world seemed to have an opinion. By focusing on the movement of the ropes and the faces in the crowd Pfeiffer silently broadens our perspective of the spectacle and enriches our understanding of the scene. Like most sporting events, it is not just about two men or two teams stepping into the ring or onto the court and trying to win. It is about all they represent; their families, their followers, their countries, the media; all that surrounds them.
What remains after Pfeiffer's calculated alterations is in fact more potent than the original picture. Having commenced the series by bringing his camera to athletic events, Pfeiffer quickly realized he was less interested in the game itself, than the action taking place on the peripheral margins. In Thrilla in Manila, the fighters seem intensified rather than absent because the context has been altered. "...it's a bit like what people describe as far as ghost limbs among soldiers. In a war people lose a limb and will have this continuing feeling like they still have that limb. Like a ghost limb. Another kind of dramatic example is when the World Trade Center went down. For long afterwards you sort of looked up and expected to see something there. Although it's literally taking the figure away, in some ways it's also intensifying something about the figure that used to be there." (Paul Pfeiffer as quoted in Art:21.com "Erasure, Camouflage and Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse," 2006-2007).
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