Mr. Pfeifer bracingly stages an all-strings attached re-enactment — his fictional version fuses Brechtian alienation techniques with the showmanship of trashy German talk shows — to pick at both the alleged crime and the holes in its media representation.
– Jason Farago
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Mario Pfeifer’s Again / Noch einmal (2018) examines one of Germany’s recent wounds - a court case that revealed Germany’s pervasive, underlying xenophobia towards migrants.
Again / Noch einmal shows us that layers, enrichments, complications to one’s identity may mean that one’s life is expendable, and one’s execution an inconvenience to be erased by blaming the complexity itself - rather than the refusal to read it.
– M Neelika Jayawardane
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE.
Civil courage or vigilante justice? Bending the rule of law? Again uses reenactment and fact-based staging to investigate this fundamental question, while taking a hard look at Germany’s refugee crisis and the social and political turmoils of recent years.
AGAIN takes an incident in a village in the Free State of Saxony in East Germany as a point of departure to ask a question that is essential to any community: What is civil courage and when does it tip over into vigilante justice?
AGAIN reappraises the so-called “handcuff trial” when four men attacked a Kurdish-Iraqi refugee in a supermarket and then tied him to a nearby tree.
AGAIN restages the supermarket situation, navigates barriers of communication, and depicts violence in an everyday situation. Original footage from the incident published on YouTube serves as a counterpoint to the staged performance.
AGAIN tells the story of Schabas Saleh Al-Aziz and his flight from Iraq along the 4,000 km “Balkan Route.” We learn about his epileptic disease and the complications he suffered during his asylum-seeking process in Germany.
AGAIN recounts the legal arguments of the case and lets the indicted men and their attorney have their say.
Summer 2016: In the Saxon village of Arnsdorf near Dresden (East Germany) a Kurdish-Iraqi refugee enters a discount supermarket to report a problem with his recently acquired prepaid SIM card.
An argument between the cashier and the man escalates when four men attack the refugee, abuse and beat the man, drag him out of the shop, and tie him with cable straps to a nearby tree.
The police arrive twenty-five minutes later. The four men walk home, unidentified by the police, while the refugee is questioned at the station.
Ten days later a YouTube video goes viral documenting the incident inside the supermarket.
An investigation leads to a trial with the four men charged with false imprisonment—and Schabas Saleh Al-Aziz accused of robbery and threatening behavior.
The case is dismissed in less than four hours on the grounds that it is not in the public interest and the key witness cannot testify anymore. Schabas Saleh Al-Aziz’s corpse was found a week before the trial. Frozen to death in a forest.
Again reenacts the incident and investigates Schabas Saleh Al-Aziz’s ordeal, his escape from Iraq to Germany, and the subsequent mix of feelings generated by refugee aid, medical care, and legal disputes.
Present during the film’s live production, ten citizens observe the performance and watch archive material on the case. Based on their own migrant experience, they comment on what they have seen and watched, evincing intense emotional reactions.
The reenactment is performed by nonprofessional performers together with German star actors Dennenesch Zoudé and Mark Waschke.
Forty-two minutes of step-by-step accounting gradually magnify the scale of the injustice. The sincere and moving responses by the jury further underscore the import of the crime.One woman, herself a German immigrant, tells the camera, “The faces of these men instill me with fear.”
– Madeleine Schwartz, artforum international
By choosing his means, Pfeifer illustrates the complexity of the case and at the same time emphasizes the selectivity of the media coverage as well as his own perception. Here we encounter the duality of good and evil, of right and wrong, of victims and perpetrators, of right and left in a constant change of perspective. Sometimes Pfeifer shows the same scene from two angles. Sometimes there are opposing images, and it is impossible to take them both in at the same time.
– Sarah Alberti, taz die tageszeitung
The 10 Absolute Best Works of Art We Saw
Around the World in 2018
There’s a lot of art out there. A lot of it is notable in the moment, but doesn’t necessarily stick in the mind. Then there’s that show—or that individual work—you can’t forget. Below, our editors pick the most memorable, exciting, and enchanting art they saw this year.
In 2016, German “vigilantes” beat and dragged an Iraqi refugee out of a grocery store and tied him to a tree. News of the incident, which went viral, was quickly dismissed by the courts and the refugee went missing and later died. In Mario Pfeifer’s two-channel video, which debuted at the Berlin Biennial this summer, the East Germany-born artist reconstructs the situation and creates a false trial to reexamine the incident with a jury of real German citizens. Their conclusions and remarks on the nuances of the migrant experience in Germany are harrowing and profound as we see, more and more, history repeating itself. It is rare that an artwork goes a full step beyond the boundaries of the art-world bubble and takes a real stake in the world. This one did.
The most immediate work is the film AGAIN by Mario Pfeifer, in which the mistreatment of an Iraqi in an Arnsdorf supermarket in April 2016 is the subject of a theatrical chamber piece about vigilante justice and civil courage. Again and again, a black actress asks the protagonists of a jury composed of Germans with a migrant background: What is morally right? Why was the trial against the perpetrators stopped? What had happened?
– Catrin Lorch, Süddeutsche Zeitung
Mario Pfeifer persistently pursues the most fascinating aspect of the reenactment: there is nothing unambiguous about it.
–Simone Reber, Bayrischer Rundfunk Kultur