Talia Kirsh on: Mario Pfeifer Approximation in the digital age to a humanity condemned to disappear
Approximation in the digital age to a humanity condemned to disappear at KOW
The viewer enters “Approximation”, a three-channel video installation, brilliant images shot using high-resolution 4K technology. The room vibrates with a deep base and the images project a eerie blue inventing an atmosphere as if we are living in an HD screen. This way of seeing pulls together this global story on ancient and digital anthropology. The The sunrise is as breathtaking in Patagonia as it is in the Panoramabar in Berlin’s Berghain nightclub. At farthest end of the world, Pfeiffer’s footage documents the industry and anthropology of planet’s most ancient and remote indigenous people, the Yaghan, who are in the process of dying out.Formerly aquatic nomads, the Yaghan first settled the southernmost tip of South America thousands of years ago; Not much is left of their culture. Decades ago, the Chilean government brought them churches, schools, wage labor, and an ethnological museum to make sure they understood how they would henceforth live their lives. Footage shows the breathtaking landscapes, mass global industry, and the final photographs of the remaining Yaghan, record their voices, and take DNA samples. The video artist was on site for four months, to film the indigenous people as they live today. In stupendous and sometimes hypnotizing images, he has created an aesthetic model that runs counter to the conventional templates of anthropological and documentary representation at the hands of modern civilization, and lending it a contemporary face.The fish cannery and the nightclub, everyday life and nature: everything is uploaded into the global culture
Pfeifer showed the members of the world’s southernmost people digital copies of photographs of their forebears taken by the German missionary and anthropologist Martin Gusinde around 1920; pictures they had never seen on an electronic device before. The video shows them swiping and zooming through the images on an iPad, identifying relatives and reconstructing lineages that dissolve in the soundtrack’s rhythms. The New York-based musician Kamran Sadeghi also used the Yaghan’s elegiac dirges, which Gusinde recorded in 1923 for his digital compositions. This footage is breathtaking as it is overwhelming, even disgusting in some shots as we see the mass industry of crabs and zoom in shots of the locals slicing up a cow. It is a strange viewing, not documentary-like but more accurate and “real” way of documenting this world in our time today.