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Paul Pfeiffer: Red Green Blue

ATHENS, GA – The Athenaeum is thrilled to present Paul Pfeiffer: Red Green Blue, a video installation that marks the second project from New York-based artist Paul Pfeiffer’s extended collaboration with the Redcoat Marching Band at the University of Georgia. Pfeiffer, a pioneering artist in new media known for engaging ideas connected to media, spectacle, and sport, will exhibit a new video installation foregrounding the stadium as a broadcast studio. An opening reception for Paul Pfeiffer: Red Green Blue will take place on August 31 from 6 to 8 pm and is free and open to the public. The installation will remain on view at the Athenaeum through November 18, 2023.

Often located in the heart of a city or campus, the sports stadium has the capacity to fortify national, regional, or community-based models of identity. Inside, the spectator is bombarded with carefully orchestrated stimuli, immersed in a multi-sensory experience intended to incite an emotional response. In Red Green Blue, Paul Pfeiffer edits audio and visual recordings of the UGA Redcoat Marching Band, examining the mechanics of the performance through close-up footage of band members and their directors during and between periods of play.

Pfeiffer lived in Athens, GA and taught at the University of Georgia from 2016 to 2019 as Lamar Dodd Professorial Chair at the Lamar Dodd School of Art. He first collaborated with the Redcoat Marching Band in 2019 in conjunction with the prestigious biennial performance festival, Performa. A key element in Pfeiffer’s ambitious project, fifty Redcoat members—who normally perform during the breaks in play at UGA’s Sanford Stadium, home of the Georgia Bulldogs football team—performed live at the Apollo Theater, recreating a two-and-a-half hour musical score from a typical college football game, using both front and back of house of the theater as their performance space. Simultaneously, the rest of the 400-strong band performed the exact same musical score inside the empty Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia, which was live streamed into the Apollo, contrasting the architectures of stadium and theater.

Pfeiffer explains the motif of the stadium in his recent work: "Sanford Stadium was a central object of study during my time at the Lamar Dodd School of Art. It was the focus of an extended classroom experiment in which a group of students, faculty, staff, and myself explored the stadium in its capacity as a massive broadcast studio and home to one of America’s most popular mass rituals. In this context, I was particularly drawn to the UGA Redcoat Band and its role as the live soundtrack and musical generator of crowd affect during the games."

While broadly questioning the definition of reality in the age of social media, in the video installation Pfeiffer also engages the specific circumstances of the Georgia Bulldogs’ stadium. Just beyond the stadium walls is a contested site, a 19th-century cemetery that contains the gravesites of both enslaved African-Americans and Confederate soldiers. The roar of the crowd and the band echo eerily among tombstones, mixing with birdsong. The contrast between these sites introduces a temporal and architectural disparity that recalls the ancient Greek origins of the stadium as a locus of mass ritual, as well as the institutions of segregation enshrined in the monuments of the past.

In Red Green Blue the football players are seen only at moments between play or through the viewfinder of a broadcasting video camera. Thus, Pfeiffer pivots away from the hero in the spotlight, and persuades the viewer to focus instead on the nuanced language of spectacle.

Paul Pfeiffer (b. 1966 Honolulu) lives and works in New York. Pfeiffer has had one-person exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art (2001); the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2003 and 2017-18); the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2005); MUSAC León, Spain (2008); the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2009) and Sammlung Goetz, Munich, Germany (2011). Pfeiffer has presented work in major international exhibitions in recent years, including the Performa Biennial and the Honolulu Biennial in 2019 and the Toronto Biennial and Seoul Mediacity Biennale in 2022. His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Inhotim Museu de Arte Contemporanea, Inhotim, Brazil; the Pinault Collection; and Kunst Werke, Berlin, among others.