The Voeten Collection represents a unique combination of both Belgian and international works. Currently it comprises over 1700 art pieces that have been collected during a period of more than 40 years. They are exhibited in two separate locations – at the Art Center close to Herentals and at the sculpture park near Gheel.

Paul Pfeiffer

Live From Neverland, 2006, two channel digital video loop, single channel audio loop, projector, 00:10:18

In the work Live From Neverland (2006), the American artist Paul Pfeiffer (°1966, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States of America) explores the influence of pop culture and mass media on the human psychology. The video-installation Live From Neverland consists of two parts: (1) a monitor that shows Michael Jackson's original denial of child abuse, a soundlessly replaying footage of a public statement that Jackson red on television in 1993, and (2) a projection with a chorus of young people, more specific 80 Filipino students, reciting Jackson's monologue in unison, in the style of a Greek chorus, directed by Dr. Eva Lindstrom.

The chorus is a group of college students in speech and theater at Silliman University in Dumaguete City, the historic seat of American education in the Philippines. Live From Neverland was shot in the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium in Dumaguete in July 2006. People in Dumaguete bought tickets to watch this performance and came out of the auditorium with mixed emotions. The chorus is half male, half female, and all dressed in white, the color that symbolizes innocence and purity. The title of this work refers to Jackson's property, his Neverland Ranch in California. In his speech, Jackson positions himself as a victim, reciting a litany of indignities inflicted on him by the police. The original so-called Neverland Statement can be found on YouTube.

This work is part of Pfeiffer's ongoing series of works with found footage. Most of his works are 'digital interventions'. Pfeiffer takes a painterly approach to editing and composing video footage: "It seems difficult to think about contemporary video, even TV broadcasting, without talking about the precedent of painting," thus the artist. In Live From Neverland Pfeiffer manipulated the original image by using digital processing techniques. The two videos are brought into further correspondence by means of a subtle re-syncing of Jackson's facial gestures to match the spoken delivery and the measured pace of the chorus. Pfeiffer slowed down the Jackson footage so that Jackson's mouth moves in perfect sync with the voices of the chorus. Also, it appears that the pop star is struggling to speak, as though he is stuck in some viscous medium and can barely move. By doing so, Pfeiffer presents the image of Michael Jackson to us from a new viewpoint. Due to the saturated colors and the whiteness of the star's face, the image has a dream-like quality. Furthermore the scene seems artificial, staged and affected.

In general, Paul Pfeiffer's artworks are concerned with the mass media phenomena of our globalised societ and show an interest in themes such as celebrities, sports spectacles and cinema classics. He raises questions of identity, self-fashioning and mass media dependence. His art practice consists mainly of manipulating mass-media imagery to create hypnotic videos and digital prints that show his interest in the spectacle of these images and in our media-saturated culture, that is a contemporary culture obsessed with celebrity.

Pfeiffer states that everyone knows that media images often lie, however that doesn't diminish their power to grab our attention and exert an influence on our lives. "I think of Live From Neverland as an attempt to represent an enigma rather than to provide answers or defend a critical position on media culture," thus the artist. By using new technology he dissects the role that mass media play in shaping consciousness and destabilize the experience of viewing. Another series of video works Pfeiffer made, for example, focuses on professional sports events, such as basketball, boxing, hockey. Hereby the artist removes the bodies of the players from the games. By doing so, he shifts the viewer's focus to the spectators, the sports equipment, or trophies won.

Pfeiffers work is connected to the work of the so-called 'Pictures artists' or 'Pictures Generation', such as (°1949), Cindy Sherman (°1954), Robert Longo (°1953), et al., who in the late 1970s appropriated and revised images of our consumer and media saturated society. Pfeiffer says that he and the 'Pictures artists' have a shared interest in common, everyday images and how they shape reality. The artist defines this interest as something more than mere media critique: "For me, the legacy of the Pictures Generation is a desire to disrupt the surface illusion of reality and to access another dimension".

Paul Pfeiffer is born in Honolulu, Hawaii, raised in the Philippines and living and working in New York since 1990. Paul Pfeiffer earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in printmaking from San Francisco Art Institute in 1987 and later earned his Master of Fine Arts degree from Hunter College, New York in 1994.

Text: Sarah Gallasz, May 2016