Paul Pfeiffer

Salt Beyoğlu

September 10 – December 10, 2011

Empire                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          © Paul Pfeiffer. Paula Cooper Gallery'nin (New York) izniyle
© Paul Pfeiffer. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York


The inauguration of the wasp nest is initiated by the queen. Her raw material is wood fiber mixed with saliva; forming a paper paste, she molds a stalk and attaches it to the cool, sheltered eave of a house. She builds up the initial composition of cells, lays her first eggs, and goes back to work on the structure. When the nest has reached the size of a walnut, the workers begin to hatch and immediately join the construction project. When the queen has spawned a sufficient labor force, she retires to devote herself to full-time reproduction. From location selection to exhaustion of resources, the lifecycle of this insect architecture is approximately three months.

This is also the duration of Empire, a video installation by Paul Pfeiffer. Recorded directly to hard drive, projected in uninterrupted real time, and situated in direct contact with the host infrastructure, Empire mediates two modes of civilization: insect and human, organic and technological, material and digital. The title of Pfeiffer’s work gestures to another Empire, Andy Warhol’s famous 8-hour film of the Empire State Building. “In the same way that Warhol’s image of the Empire State Building gives the viewer a striking object through which to contemplate things that are really immaterial like human aspiration, ambition, or the passage of time,” explains the artist, “so the wasp nest provides a visual hook to draw the viewer into contemplation of insect behavior, an invitation to project an anthropomorphic narrative onto the nest-building activity of wasps. In a way the nest is a ruse for a study of the perceptual behavior of the viewer.”

Serving as the temporal foundation and conceptual mascot of How We Move, a program of moving image works reflecting on the idea of institutions, Empire has been specially reconfigured for its installation in the Forum of SALT Beyoğlu.