Jan Pfeiffer: Two Rules for One Thing
Curator: Pavel Kubesa
Jan Pfeiffer has established himself as an artist working with diverse formats of creating complex signal situations thematizing different semantic contexts. His works abound in historical, mythological, religious and cultural connotations of both specific sites and purely abstract, even anthropological archetypal motifs. Pfeiffer´s visual morphology elaborates the semantic options offered by various sets of basic geometric shapes and develops them in a process aimed at unfolding their broader interpretational potential and a dramatization of symbolic narratives. A common denominator of Pfeiffer´s output is a shared, characteristic mood, an externalized individual sensitivity which determines the nature and language of his approach to individual subjects. Pfeiffer´s narratives thus induce the feeling of a seemingly gentle yet at the same time firm handshake, a physical contact straddling in terms of effect the borderline between a tender stroke and the act of moulding of material, either sculptural or human, represented by spectators.
The project entitled Two Rules for One Thing exemplifies Pfeiffer´s idiom in its handling of correlations between willpower, object and shape, and the limits set on its use. In the work´s unfoiling threedimensional narrative, the prime instrument of communication consists in the repetitive occurrence of the motif of a sinusoid. Its variations are employed with a view to articulating an intricate web of ideas building up a metaphor of the process of human deliberation.
The core of Pfeiffer´s situation consists in approaching the human individual as an active element continuously confronted with sets of either external or internal rules, as well as with a specific set of personal aspirations and capacities geared towards actually making rules, with a view to getting a proper grasp of things. For Pfeiffer, a model situation is represented there by the act of entering into landscape and its ensuing structuring by choreographed individual or collective human movement. The movement he has in mind can be either internal (driven by decision-making, alternative choice, and physical impulses), or external, in terms of actual space-related definitions of direction or limitation. In real life, different strategies and different institutions happen to construct landscape using diverse instruments of mobility. The surface of landscape-as-material-object, with its embedded content of deposited strata of minerals and soil, is overlaid by sediments of ambition and power taking the forms of instructions, restrictions and control mechanisms. The amount of space available for the manifestation of (predominantly physical) movement has been dwindling, for the sake of unidirectional corridors of action which ultimately set the rules. The actual width of the corridors within which we are able to structure our movement ultimately depends on our choice of the game which we have decided to play, or which we have been made to play.
By his own choice of a staged and choreographed approach, however, Pfeiffer focuses primarily on the question of individual, internal action, using the device of animating the spectator´s movement through the physical space of the gallery. There, the unconditional repetition of the sinusoid (i.e., the rule) in the form of landscape sketches of the morphology of hill-shaped reliefs in black-and-white ink drawings (diversifying this formal limitation by varying contents) in the gallery´s first section confronts the spectator with the need to make a decision: namely, whether or not to try and force their way past this large object wedged between the gallery´s walls. The suggestion of this kind of formal openness involving the need to enter the work in the literal, physical sense, enables Pfeiffer to set into motion a simulation of the decision-making process, complete with its elements of determination and taking the first step. Letting into play the physical experience of bowing one´s head, an action required for getting through and past the object, he moreover achieves a visualization of a metaphor of humility vis-a-vis this “rite of passage” to the physical experience of a rule.
The show´s second section opens up before the spectator the sight of a more loosely structured composition featuring instances of variation and plurality, as well as symbiosis of different rules (either formal, or content-wise) applied to one thing. An interesting role is played here by two photographs of hands which, as metaphors of “grasping”, point to the cognitive fact that form alone can be instrumental in decision-making, offering itself as a “perceived alternative,” showing the way. Similarly, what was initially a comparatively inaccessible landscape is now seen for the first time from the other side, where it is treated in an entirely different way. In the exhibition´s last room, the original thing is divided, detached from the rules of form, turned inside out, its averted sides now giving shape to a new landscape element: a corridor, or fissure, which at its far end sets in motion a dialogue-style play of rules involving the use of a six-minute short film re-enacting the movements and unaccomplished conversation between two actors who stand in “the same place”, without ever actually meeting. It may seem that the installation´s end point thus suggests the idea of a unified, communal use of a particular space, the aspiration to a union which, however, is for the time being still unattainable.