Having created artwork everywhere from Bangkok to Mumbai to Beirut to Santiago de Chile to Los Angeles, Mario Pfeifer addresses global issues on local scales in his artistic practice. The Dresden-based artist conceives every project from a specific cultural history and the location’s current socio-political climate, and the projects always involve in-depth research and plenty of time spent on-site, allowing him to explore various communities, cultures and places. The results of such explorations take the form of films and videos to photographs and text-based installations. Starting next week, one of his films, ‘Corpo Fechado’ (2016), will be on view in Berlinische Galerie’s IBB Video Space.
‘Corpo Fechado,’ which translates to “unbreakable body,” focuses on societal conditions in relation to spiritual and religious practices in São Paulo, Brazil. Pfeifer explores these themes by intertwining three stories, each with a different protagonist: First, there is Christavao Chrystal, a healer who draws on supernatural powers to treat mental health issues like depression and anxiety; then there’s Tata Katuvengeci, a leader of the afro-religion Candomblé, which is in the tradition of the Congo-Angolan Bantu culture, who confronts issues of racism, oppression and institutional neglect; and finally, there is Makumba Cyber, a post-religious manifesto that addresses contemporaneity through digital, immaterial representation. Throughout the film’s 47 minutes, Pfeifer weaves together these three different perspectives, interconnecting them through interludes that introduce sites of production of religious objects.
These stories allude to the fact that wide religious diversity remains a distinctive feature of Brazilian life today—despite the fact that when Portugal colonized the country, starting in the 15th century, Catholicism was forcefully imposed, and many indigenous cultures died out. Yet in the 16th century, when many African countries were colonized, the transatlantic slave trade brought new faiths to Brazil. Today, the corpo fechado remains a Candomblé ritual, practiced to shield the body from evil.