Mario Pfeifer, 2014-2015

Approximation in the digital age to a humanity condemned to disappear

Approximation in the digital age to a humanity condemned to disappear was produced on Shunuko, today known as Isla Navarino, in the southernmost parts of Patagonia, Chile. In 1953, Puerto Williams was founded as a military base, and since then, the native population has been resettled. In 1973, the development of a civil settlement was decided and accelerated by territorial tensions between Chile and Argentina.

The civil master plan included administrative and educational buildings as well as a church and a museum. The latter was named "Museo Antropológico Martin Gusinde". The anthropologist’s estate is today housed at Anthropos Institut as part of the Steyler monastery in Sankt Augustin. The museum in Puerto Williams only hosts digital reproductions of Gusinde’s documents.

In this 3 channel video installation, intertwined episodes present different realities of an area that indigenous people, settlers and military personnel call their home. The sequences look at the land referred to as Tierra del Fuego, at manual and industrial labor, at wildlife, at activities of Yaghan descendants in the bay of Katushawaia or at the nightlife of Puerto Williams. In addition, two women analyze digitalized photographs on an iPad, animating the images that Martin Gusinde took between 1919 and 1924. On screen they trace the family relations of the last free living Yaghans.

Pfeifer's work presents a portrait of a nation and community that underwent violent cultural and religious, social, political and economic transformation – in a moment where it is about to disappear. Through an observational approach it not only makes visible the cruelty of anthropological practices in the region but appeals to a different kind of representation in moving images towards cultures that have existed long before the imperialistic gaze.

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Approximation in the digital age to a humanity condemned to disappear
Mario Pfeifer
3 channel video, color video, 5.1 surround audio
4096px x 2160px, 26'