A Formal Film in Nine Episodes, Prologue & Epilogue
Goethe‐Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai andProject 88 are proud to announce Mario Pfeifer's first solo exhibition in India presenting his acclaimed and widely exhibited installation project A Formal Film in Nine Episodes, Prologue & Epilogue (2010). This is the first time the work will be showcased in the city of its making – Mumbai.
During his researchandproduction period in 2010, Pfeifer developed a multi‐layered, visually compelling and critically challenging film project; shot on 35 mm colour negative in single takes with two Greater Bombay citizens unfamiliar with the process of producing a conceptual film but highlyknowledgeable about their own area, its local culture and diversity of languages.
In close collaboration with his research assistants, Pfeifer went on extensive location visits observing everyday situations and activities that he first considered on a formal level, approaching them, as he puts it, in a state of innocence–entering a complex environment without preconceptions. By further investigating the social, urban, ethnographic, religious and cultural contexts inherent in his formal approach, he developed the structural concept of the film, which was later worked into the project's title. Presented as what Amira Gad defines as a “flexible installation”,1 Pfeifer suggests a loose ordering of his episodes, prologue and epilogue within the setting of an exhibition space, varying the number of projections and declining to specify the order and number of episodes to be screened together. This flexibility creates the possibility for the projected material to be displayedin diverse narrative combinations and asks spectators to engage with the exhibition space and the filmic representation byapplyingtheir own individual gaze and critique, a personal process of translating the experience.
Pfeifer's images, framed by cinematographer AvijitMukhulKishore, are rich in colour and sounds, kaleidoscopic depictions of architectures, a factory, a clinic, urban development, religious and ethnographic sites – an investigation of the city's growth from rural areas to high‐tech sites and planned cities, from manual labour to neoliberal, global forms of production.
With its images resistant to 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 per se and the artist's own involvement in a local context he would otherwise not be part of. ShanayJhaveri asks in his essay on Pfeifer's undertaking: “Do the images cave in under layered formal choices that seek to clearly forefront an awareness of the ethics of representation or do they absorb the formal choices?”2RanjitHoskote notes that “Pfeifer's approach provokes me into asking whose reality it is that is being represented ... Even as recently as ten years ago, it seemed politically appropriate for Indians like myself – scholars, critics, theorists, artists and curators – to deploy a 'strategic essentialism'3... and claim an authority by birthright over any representation of India or Indians ... On the contrary [this film] provokes me into a state of curiosity, acting by allusive indirection.”4
With A Formal Film Mario Pfeifer distances himself from documentarism and the use of commentaries, and instead casts doubts on the social critique that such aesthetics evoke, which according to Alexander Koch, “itself might appear as a form of colonialist encroachment in today's >globalized society.”5
In conjunction with previous exhibitions at MMK Museum fürModerneKunst Frankfurt am Main and KOW, Project 88, KHOJ Artist Association and Goethe‐Institut/Max Mueller Bhavanpresent Pfeifer's recent publication A Formal Film in Nine Episodes, Prologue and Epilogue – A Critical Reader (2013), published in Hindi and English and distributed internationally by Spector Books. With numerous contributions from Berlin, Frankfurt, London, Mumbai, New Delhi and Rotterdam, the reader discusses in depth the societal, cultural and aesthetic issues suggested in Pfeifer's practice. As the publication was conceived after a research trip made by designer Markus Weisbeck with the artist in 2012, the production took place in collaboration with Mumbai‐based printers and manufacturers with design contributions by KurnalRawat/Grandmother India. It was supervised by Eve Lemesle, AnandTharaney and Ragunath V, whose video on the publication's making will also be presented during the exhibition.
The exhibition organized by Goethe‐Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai at Project 88 runs from April 27until 28 May 2013. Please join us for the opening reception, with artist Mario Pfeifer and his collaborators from the film and publication projects present, on 27 April 2013 at 7pm.
On 28 April 2013 at 7:30pm, Markus Weisbeck, Ragunath V and Mario Pfeifer will present and discuss the recently released publication, its formal and conceptual framework relating to the crosscultural, collaborative nature of the three‐year‐long project at Studio X Mumbai.
1 Amira Gad: “Blurring the Boundaries” in A Formal Film in Nine Episodes, Prologue and Epilogue – A Critical Reader(Spector Books, Leipzig, 2013), p.138
2 Shanay Jhaveri:“'Inside' and 'Outside' a Frame of Historical and Cultural Referentiality?”, ibid., p.58
3 See Sara Danius, Stefan Jonsson and Gayatri C. Spivak, “An Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak”, in Boundary 2,
Vol. 20 No. 2 (Duke University Press, Summer 1993), pp. 24–50.
4 Ranjit Hoskote: “Imagining India” in A Formal Film, pp. 242–46
5 Alexander Koch: Exhibition Text Mario Pfeifer, KOW, 2011