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Paul Pfeiffer

The Pure Products Go Crazy

1998

Artist

Paul Pfeiffer (1966-)

Title

The Pure Products Go Crazy

Date

1998

Medium

Video installation, with videotape, VHS player, projector, and metal armature; image 3 x 4 in.

Dimensions

Overall: 20 × 5 × 20 in. (50.8 × 12.7 × 50.8 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee and the Film and Video Committee

Accession number

2000.151

Object Label

Paul Pfeiffer’s The Pure Products Go Crazy, a looped digital projection, replays less than a second of a scene from the 1983 movie Risky Business. In the clip, Tom Cruise’s character collapses onto a couch after playing air guitar and thrashes about in his underwear. The tiny size of the projection—it is only a few inches wide—contrasts with the scale of Cruise’s fame, and although the actor is the “pure product” to which the title (taken from a William Carlos Williams poem) refers, his celebrity is nowhere in evidence and his face is obscured. Pfeiffer employs footage from cinema, popular culture, and sports broadcasts in his digital work, and this recontextualization—often accompanied by resizing and alteration—forces viewers to slow down in evaluating it. Watching Cruise on a loop is mesmerizing, prompting us to pay attention to the very process of paying attention. “It’s about preventing the viewer from being sucked into the illusion, becoming a passive spectator in the way people watch the news or a game show on TV,” Pfeiffer explains. “I’m asking the viewer to regard the video image with the kind of contemplative attention normally reserved for painting.”

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