Critics’ Picks

Mario Pfeifer, #blacktivist, 2015, two-channel video, color, sound, 10 minutes 36 seconds.

Mario Pfeifer, #blacktivist, 2015, two-channel video, color, sound, 10 minutes 36 seconds.

New York

Mario Pfeifer

Goethe-Institut Curatorial Residencies Ludlow 38
38 Ludlow Street
September 9–October 25, 2015

German artist Mario Pfeifer’s films explore cultural types in order to extend beyond the limits and privilege of a specific ethnography. For his debut exhibition in the United States and commissioned by the MINI/Goethe-Institut, Pfeifer spent half a year collaborating with director Drew Arnold and Beast Coast rap trio the Flatbush Zombies to produce a video work and EP for their latest single, “Blacktivist.” Borrowing from this title is #blacktivist, 2015, Pfeifer’s two-channel installation, which melds a music video, interviews with the Zombies, and other documentary footage. The result is a critical glimpse into the persistent and pervasive gun violence defended since time immemorial as culture in America.

The beats and testo of the Zombies sound throughout, shedding light on the victims of a society inert and negligent when it comes to gun control: “Second amendment, nigga, grab your gun. / Invest in a vest when you’re from these slums.” The accompanying video flashes footage from television crime dramas, the Black Lives Matter movement, and egregiously familiar images of white-on-black police brutality among a chroma key–set narrative that portrays the rap trio as psychedelic, pacifist resistance fighters. Sobering is the sulfurous documentation of production at Defense Distributed, a pending nonprofit manufacturer of firearms in Austin that cites constitutional rights in order to circumvent the legal and economic regulation of weapons distribution. Codirected by Pfeifer and Arnold (whose role as a founding member of the Tea Party is significant), #blacktivist perforates America’s claims to civil liberty and portrays the escalating, public conflict as crucial, gridlocked, and subject to the crossfire of inconstancy.