As an artist duo matthaei&pfeifer have been collaborating on various projects in Berlin, Vienna, Arizona and other places. Multi-disciplinary in practice, matthaei&pfeifer share a background in Performing Arts, Literature, Philosophy and Political Science. They primarily work with performative interventions, installations, sound, video, and text.
matthaei&pfeifer have developed and realised various projects e.g. COOP 3000 – The Foundation of a Neo-Solidarity Corporation (2016/17) with Urbane Künste Ruhr: A long-term performative process of founding a neo-solidarity company with all kinds of people in different formats. Over the course of 2 years for the Ruhr area, the former industrial heart of Europe, that has and still is undergoing all the changes of a post-industrialist society. The Confederacy of Idiots (Berlin, 2016), a large conspiracy at sophiensaele Berlin, for which the performers adopted and appropriated various "idiotic" practices channelling a journey into ways of living where we will no longer function. Followed by a class "Idiocy & Resistance" at the Vienna Poetry School (2017). In Tucson, Arizona, they developed Desert Utopias (2018-19) a radio piece for Kunstradio/Ö1, the Austrian broadcasting company. "wie man sehen wird", a radiophonic art project, made the short-list for the competition Track 5 on Ö1.
Among other projects they also collaborated on Hundsturm (2013), the re-opening of an urban venue of the "Vienna Volkstheater", that was to become a performative laboratory, an open space for unusual formats. And with Paradis Artificiels - the b-sides (2012) they dived into all kinds of drug culture in Vienna for the Wiener Festwochen/into the city, Vienna.
The practice of matthaei&pfeifer responds to contemporary urban issues – often with a subversive message and their own humorous twist.
During the bangaloREsidency, matthaei&pfeifer will collaborate with Srishti to research and create a series of site-related interventions that channel urban magical practices and voice an individual and collective perspective on the wondrous performances of the urban everyday. Their understanding of "magic" is not so much linked to vaudeville & cheesy make-beliefs – although they do like those as performative models! – but rather based in a common ability to create realities out of make beliefs that manifests itself in a wide variety of fields and practices. Engaging with Bangaloreans from all kinds of different backgrounds and with students from Srishti will be at the core of their residency. Together they plan to work performatively with an ethnopoetic approach, focusing on "urban magic" as a pool of open-source inspirations.
Together with Srishti they will devise a format how to best engage the public, the outcome will subsequently resurface as a poly-vocal audio installation in public space, as an interactive map and a manual. Performative in specific sites plus ongoing in printed and digital formats the Manual for Urban Magic strives to offer a multi-layered book full of magic micro-narratives.
We came to Bangalore with a bunch of ideas for artistic research on "magic" as an ancient practice – as a model for reciprocal appropriations between India and "the West", and as a tool with which to investigate some individual testimonies of Bangalore’s fast-changing urban character.
Indian magic dates back thousands of years – combining tricks and deception with social education, preaching and healing. While there are signs of Indian fortune tellers in the Roman Empire it became especially popular in the West in the 19th century. With the West’s image of Indian performers fulfilling all orientalist cliches to such a degree, that European stage magicians often appeared "brown-faced" and dressed up as Indians to raise their show-value.
One of the most popular tricks is called "The Great Indian Rope Trick" – never witnessed in real life, usually performed by non-Indians. At least on their advertising posters…The most famous modern heir of that tradition, who also managed to turn the flow of exploitation around, was P.C. Sorcar. Traveling the world extensively with his globally famous shows, one evening he tricked half of the UK into believing that, yes, he did cut that lady in half! Which led to a complete breakdown of the telephone lines at BBC headquarters and a formal apology the next morning. The early days of television…
So we were more than thrilled to find ourselves ON STAGE with his grandson in a peculiar re-enactment of the great successes of his grandfather. The objects and some of the performers on stage looked as if they had been with the master on his first world tour already, the music banging and blaring all questions and senses away – in front of a half-empty auditorium with somewhat bewildered children and their nostalgic grandparents. And yes: He could read ALL our thoughts! The "Water of India" never stopped flowing and the lady was indeed cut in half (or in many more pieces).
During our bangaloREsidency we researched and realised a series of site-related interventions that channel urban magical practices while conducting interviews giving voice to individual and collective perspectives on the wondrous performances of the urban every day. "Magic" understood as a common ability to create realities out of make belief that manifests itself in a wide variety of fields and practices. Engaging with Bangaloreans from all kinds of different backgrounds and with students from the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, we worked performatively with an ethnopoetic approach, focusing on "urban magic" as a pool of open-source inspirations.
B) Cooperation with our host, Srishti Institute of Art Design & Technology
As an acclaimed design school known throughout the country, Srishti attracts well-educated and bright students (many of them with a wealthy background). In the Srishti Interim programme, which takes place in winter, the students can attend 4-week cross-disciplinary workshops or so-called “studios” run by Indian & international artists*, who are invited for this purpose. This meant that we got to work with students from various Indian states, and different majors (graphic design, textile, etc.) which enriched our time with a broader view on many everyday topics. In addition, we felt very lucky to exchange with the faculty of Srishti, mostly creative people and accomplished artists from the city, which offered another level of information and inspiration for us.
Meena, head of the Srishti interim programme, introduced us to our assistant Paul, a super-competent, creative, knowledgeable, easy-going, Ph.D. researcher & artist & expert in so many fields who made our whole time in Bangalore so much more amazing. The students were highly motivated & we had a very playful and productive cooperation after we were able to get across that rather than expecting them to fulfil clearly defined tasks, we were trying to collaborate on this together: discovering and learning about magic practices and strategies in the city.
At the end of our “studio”, we were part of a huge exhibition at the Rangoli Metro Art Centre, an open-air cultural space in downtown Bangalore, with many other students from their respective Interim workshops, organised in collaborative teams.
C) Some thoughts about the residency
As an artist duo we have performed in various cities, countries, on different continents, have done artistic research & collaborated on many projects with colleagues & humans from all walks of life. The artist residency with Srishti was a bit special compared to others: During the first half, we had some time by ourselves, which allowed us to engage with the other Goethe artists and pursue our own artistic project, while meeting our host twice for lunch and coffee. The second half turned out to be completely different: A very intense period with full-time teaching & daily practices & lessons & preparing for a group exhibition consuming ALL of our time.
In hindsight, we weren’t sure whether we could have spent less time with the students, in class and on excursions. And sometimes we found ourselves confronted with pretty direct demands and expectations by our host at short notice – which was a bit strange given that Srishti received our professional commitment on a voluntary basis.
But we felt that having taken on the responsibility of conducting a workshop for the students, we wanted it to be meaningful and enriching for them in a mutually open, inquisitive environment. Which simply took that extra bit of work to keep it going.
Accommodation: Our apartment was situated in a building in a residential area of Malleshwaram. 3 bedrooms, pretty small, with a shared kitchen, a living room, and two artist roommates, who were also residents at Srishti: Catarina from Portugal and Laura from the UK, with whom we shared a bathroom. Plus, a nice balcony where we could watch the monkeys playing in the trees.
Getting around / Research in town: To be honest – yes, we underestimated the traffic & how long it takes to get from one place to another… If you are not very organised (or relaxed) – the city eats your day! It’s a magical phenomenon: whole days disappear on the metro and local buses and on or in OLAs - the local UBER for people on a budget.
In Bangalore, one is confronted with traffic, no matter which neighbourhood you live in. Sometimes it took us 1-1.5 hours to get to Srishti and again 1-1.5 hours to get back home. For a meeting at the Goethe-Institut we’d leave 2 hours ahead to make sure to get there on time. Therefore it can feel a bit overwhelming in the beginning – but obviously, you get accustomed to it and we enjoyed our Bangalore days more and more. Our advice: Schedule some time to discover new neighbourhoods, and artist scenes.
Our respect and admiration go to all those multi-disciplinary movers & shakers, artists & activists, researchers & family-organisers! We often felt exhausted after having achieved 1 interview a day or watching 1 show after teaching, had given up on writing emails on your lap while stuck in traffic and asked ourselves: When & where do they find the time & headspace to get creative, connect the dots in the discourses & come up with crisp ideas for the next day? Just another trick we haven’t figured out yet.
We are very grateful and feel extremely lucky to have met so many interesting people, our fellow Goethe residents as well as our fellow Indian and international artists at Srishti and the other host organisations and attended their events, shows and discussions. Most of the artistic work we saw correlates with political work and discourses. With the trip to the Kochi Biennale at the end of the bangaloREsidency being a highlight to dig deeper into current artistic practices and discourses.
Last but not least our thanks go out to the whole Goethe Team, to Max, Maureen, Nandita, Claus! Their relentless & sweet commitment, the dedicated preparation & experienced backing during our whole time in Bangalore were truly amazing & incredibly helpful to make us feel supported & accompanied from the very beginning. Without you, this time would not have been so inspiring & productive. Big thanks for that!