100 Artists is a yearlong celebration of the 100 artists who have appeared to date in Art21′s award-winning film series Art in the Twenty-First Century. Throughout 2013, we are dedicating two to three days to each artist on our social media platforms—Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and here on the Art21 Blog. Our current featured artist is Paul Pfeiffer.
If dachshunds were the Internet sensation a few years ago, today the spotlight belongs to kittens. Everywhere it seems that someone is posting about kittens. Here I am writing about kittens. My screensaver is full of kittens. And I don’t even like cats.
The screensaver shown above is the brainchild of Paul Pfeiffer and Giphy.com creator Alex Chung, both participants in last week’s Seven on Seven Conference. Organized annually by Rhizome, the conference pairs seven artists with seven technologists, giving the teams a single day to meet and develop a collaborative project. The following day the teams present to a room full of art-tech enthusiasts. As moderator John Michael Boling pointed out, limitations can result in the most interesting projects. However, “blind dates are often not fun.”
Judging from Pfeiffer and Chung’s chemistry on stage, Rhizome is pretty good at setting people up, certainly better at it than any of my friends but I digress. Pfeiffer and Chung made a rather gushy pair, doting on each other as they explained their process. Pfeiffer expressed respect for Chung’s interest in philosophy, namely Wittgenstein. Chung said of Pfeiffer, “He’s like the Michael Jordan of video art.”
Their presentation began with Pfeiffer’s first video work, The Pure Products Go Crazy (1998). In this looped split second from the movie Risky Business, Tom Cruise, sans pants and face down on a sofa, appears to be losing his s**t. Chung stumbled upon this scene when he Google searched Pfeiffer (what most people do before meeting a stranger nowadays) and said, “In a moment, I got him.”
From there the duo took a peculiar but somehow logical course, moving from Tom Cruise to Ryan Gosling to Rosalind Krauss to Marcel Duchamp’s film Anemic Cinema, and then onto boobs, The Shining, Lana del Ray, Werner Herzog’s film Heart of Glass, and hypnosis. Where their heads met was at “the limitations of language” and “getting beyond that” through images and looping. In the end, their affinities resulted in Giphnosis, a pseudo startup company and self-help program.
Over at Giphnosis.com you can download screensavers to “reprogram your mind.” Need a shot of anxiety? Then you’ll want the GIF of Shelley Duvall in The Shining—knife in hand, bug-eyed, and totally creepy. Are you in need of soothing? Then you’ll want what I have: five synchronized kitties looking side to side, up, and then directly out at you. Adorable. Yes, in those rare moments when the furry little creatures don’t make me want to rip my eyes from their sockets, they are undeniably cute. All wide-eyed and docile-looking, kittens invoke a sense of calm. And when you loop them in a GIF? Totes mesmerizing.
“In a way giphnosis already exists—it’s news media,” said Pfeiffer. “Giphnosis is not necessarily evil. It’s not necessarily good.”
Watching Pfeiffer’s Art21 segment, filmed more than ten years ago, confirms what Seven on Seven revealed: Pfeiffer was way ahead of the GIF curve. “It seems there’s something inherently compelling about repetition and about the loop,” he told our producers. “It’s like a fireplace, or sort of like a moth to the flame. There’s something that draws you in and makes you want to stare at it for a while.”
Paul Pfieffer was featured in Season 2 of Art in the Twenty-First Century; watch his segment here.