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Review: Paul Pfeiffer’s Morning After The Deluge at ATHICA, In Three Parts

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I.
Paul Pfeiffer’s video, Morning After The Deluge (2003), recently screened at ATHICA (Athens Institute for Contemporary Art) from February 21-23 as part of the current exhibition, AND I FEEL FINE—curated by Hope Hilton in response to the world not coming to a fiery end as the Mayans prophesized. Pfeiffer’s video was shown projected on the large back wall of a sleek but warm space located just next door to ATHICA in the Bloom community space classroom. Walking into the space you immediately see a glaring, yellow sun in a fiery, watercolor sky. With no sound and nearly unnoticeable movement, Morning After The Deluge engages for a full 22 minutes.

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Paul Pfeiffer, Morning After The Deluge, 2003, video, TRT 22 min, copyright Paul Pfeiffer, courtesy of ATHICA, photo by Stephanie Dowda.

II.
I stare into the sun that slowly changes from warm yellow, to white, with swells of orange within the sphere. The sky quietly and patiently streaks blue, pink, and orange across the frame. Several times a bird flies across the screen, shaking me from a meditative state; I am so intent on seeing the movement, but I only notice the changes when the colors come fully into themselves. A third of the way into the video, a sliver of a rippling ocean appears across the top edge of the screen—the ocean is black but glitters with white reflection of light across the waves. Suddenly, I feel disoriented as the eternal sunset is upside down. Almost indecipherably, the sliver of the sea scrolls down the screen. At a moment when the sun is cut in half by this sliver of sea and creates a sense of discernable horizon, it then moves beyond the middle and away from the globe.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Light and Colour (Goethe’s Theory)—the Morning after the Deluge—Moses Writing the Book of Genesis, exhibited 1843, oil on canvas, 787 x 787 cm, collection and copyright of Tate Museum, London.

III.
Pfeiffer’s video is titled after Joseph William Turner’s 1843 paintingLight and Colour (Goethe’s Theory) – the Morning after the Deluge – Moses Writing the Book of Genesis, which depicts dawn emerging from the ruin of the great flood when God’s covenant with man was established. A hazy yellow sphere engulfs the landscape in Turner’s square painting—the piece is atmospheric and psychologically weighted as the world emerges with renewed purpose. Just as in Turner’s painting, Pfeiffer’s video provides a contemplative space to experience renewal. Pfeiffer presents the sunrise ad infinitum, blazing optimistically without obstruction. Morning After The Deluge gives space to reflect on the optimistic illusion Pfeiffer has created with superb digital craft—which, leads me to realize my own craving for constantly changing digital imagery has subsided for the past 20 plus minutes.  My sense of freedom crashes, however, as the video loops back to the beginning.