“All of the projects that I’ve realized in the last seven years grew out of a cultural, geographic location. I need the location to be able to start working,” says Pfeifer, who is currently in Brazil working on his next film. “Blacktivist came out of my desire to work with rap musicians. And the most natural way to work with rap musicians is to produce music. Since I’m a video producer I can only produce visuals.”
Pfeifer is very specific about what he can and can’t, will and will not do. It’s a specificity that comes out of his role as a “medium” for his subjects, open to being molded by and transmitting their ideas but also subject to his own limitations and constraints. Those subjects include the Flatbush ZOMBiES; the indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost place on the South American continent, where he filmed Approximation in the digital age to a humanity condemned to disappear (2014); or the number of religious leaders with whom he’s currently collaborating in and around São Paulo for Corpo Fechado, which will premiere in September of this year at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Leipzig.
“I’m an artist who has certain skills, and who has certain opportunities to realize things that they would never think of,” says Pfeifer of his current subjects in Brazil, which range from crystal healer Cristovão Brilho, who the artist says treats over 22,000 people a month, to practitioners of relatively unknown religions like Candomblé and Umbanda. “Most of these people are not visual thinkers; they are religious practitioners. They are leaders for their communities. I keep 100% control of the visualization of their ideas. What I need is their trust that they give me the source material.”
For #blacktivist the source material was an mp3, itself born out of several months of conversation. “One of the first things Erick Arc Elliott told me when we sat down was, ‘You know what? I'm black. I live in New York. I feel oppressed, that’s how I feel. I mean, people can disagree but this is how I personally feel so I want to make this visible,’” recalls Pfeifer, who at the time hadn’t heard a cut of the track that would become “Blacktivist.” “When I got the song and the lyrics,” at the time an untitled file, “I was blown away. It was much more than I expected.” The collaboration was seamless. Hearing the song’s opening line, Black activist on activist, Pfeifer offered, “You say ‘black activist.’ That’s a ‘blacktivist.’ The next file I got: blacktivist.mp3.”