America Is Hard to See

Solo en Inglès

This audio guide highlights selected works by artists in America Is Hard to See. Curators, scholars, and artists provide additional commentary.

541Paul Pfeiffer, Fragment of a Crucifixion, 1999


Paul Pfeiffer (1966-), _Fragment of a Crucifixion (After Francis Bacon)_, 1999. Video installation, color, silent, 0:30 min. looped, with projector and mounting arm. 20 × 5 × 20 in. (50.8 × 12.7 × 50.8 cm). Image: 3 × 4 in. (7.6 × 10.2 cm), AP 1 | Edition of 3, 2 APs. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from Melva Bucksbaum and the Film and Video Committee 2000.150 © Paul Pfeiffer. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

ADAM WEINBERG:  Artist Paul Pfeiffer talks about this video work, entitled Fragment of a Crucifixion (After Frances Bacon)

PAUL PFEIFFER: It's an image taken from a commercial video of a basketball game. And it's a moment right after a particular player slam dunks. So he looks into the camera and kind of screams. And that image is digitized and looped and then edited on the computer, so that all the other players on the basketball court are edited out. Actually, all the evidence of the basketball game, all the corporate logos and all of the team jersey numbers are all edited out. And its kind of, you know, indeterminate what he's screaming about, it kind of looks like, a little bit like rage, or it could be some kind of ecstasy or it could be some kind of humiliation. 

I thought of it as being in a way somewhat like the treatment of the Pope in Francis Bacon's painting, where the guy's recognizable as the Pope, or as a Pope. But there's something about the gesture that makes it not just the Pope but kind of almost like an archetypal image of a kind of human condition. 

It's an amazing spectacle to be in an arena with tens of thousands of people and to have everything focused on this one, what is it, 50 square meter piece of ground, where this drama is going on. Then it's even more intense to think about what that must be like from the court itself, and to be an athlete that's attempting to play a game, and kind of call all of their strength and precision and talent into play while being surrounded completely by cameras and lights and tens of thousands of people screaming. And in a way, there's something about that I think of as being almost an archetypal image of our time.