Sounds of the crowd losing themselves and finding themselves in mass communion with their heroes on the field of play swirled around the space. Beginning with the singing of two distinct national anthems, Rule Britannia and Deutschland über Alles, the soundtrack included sections of the marching hymn When the Saints Go Marching, the chants of the names of individual English footballers, Bobby Moore and Nobby Stiles. The sound is of the crowd at the most famous sporting event ever staged in Britain (and the first match broadcast live to a global audience) the 1966 World Cup Final between England and Germany. The spectator experienced the soundtrack to a now phantom spectacle, with its unavoidable resonances of empire, religion and war. The only image in the huge space playing on a tiny monitor. A solitary figure, made from re-edited footage from the match, ran this way and that on an otherwise empty pitch, lost before the crowd.
In a specially constructed cubicle inside the space, two video projections revealed a surprising source for the sound. The artist had outsourced a cover version of the 1966 Final to a new and distant multitude: a crowd of young Filipinos brought together in Manila — an outpost of a different Empire — to watch the match and chant and cheer their way through the experience as if it was 1966.
Since its premiere presentation in Wembley in 2007, The Saints has been presented at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. A related online work Jerusalem was made by Pfeiffer with Artangel in 2014.
This documentary is available to watch on Vimeo. Photograph: Thierry Bal
An excerpt from The Collection Book.
Edited by Eva Ebersberger and Daniela Zyman (2009)
Jasper Sharp: I am curious to know how your thinking about the 1966 game developed, in terms of the way that you planned to somehow re-enact it.
Paul Pfeiffer: I had the idea to try to reproduce the crowd and the sounds from the 1966 final. Not the commentator or the explanation of what was going on in the game, but rather the visceral noise of the fans and their singing of what were essentially loaded nationalist and religious anthems like When The Saints Go Marching In within the seemingly mundane context of a sporting event. I was interested to recreate these sounds using a contemporary multitude, specifically in the Philippines. I liked the idea that reproducing the sounds in this way has no logical or historical connection to the site. There is no link.
JS: Except you perhaps?
PP: Well, yes. And I was interested to find a way to translate my own upbringing in the Philippines into some sort of artistic expression, without falling into the trap of nostalgic biography. The way I did it therefore was quite objective. Something that is very specific to the social structure in the Philippines today is the value that is placed on labour as a primary commodity. It is used internationally as a tool of trade by the government, who send an enormous number of people out to work in other countries and at the same time now welcome a lot of new businesses from other countries in. Given the history of the American presence in the Philippines, and the premium placed on providing a decent education to every child notwithstanding the relatively impoverished circumstances in which many of them live, there is a relatively inexpensive, English-speaking workforce readily available. Many of them work at international telephone call centres, on a completely inverted time schedule. It's really fascinating. There are hundreds of young people, very much like a college campus, who live, sleep, eat and work within these special compounds in and around Manila.
Image: Exterior of the warehouse space used for The Saints, 2007. Photograph: Thierry Bal
My pulse is still racing. I’ve just been to Wembley and watched probably the greatest football match played in my lifetime. The atmosphere was incredible: deafening crowd noise, amazing passion on the pitch, bizarre twists in the game. And the most astonishing thing? Apart from the man on the door, I was the only person there. — Richard Morrison, The Times
My pulse is still racing. I’ve just been to Wembley and watched probably the greatest football match played in my lifetime. The atmosphere was incredible: deafening crowd noise, amazing passion on the pitch, bizarre twists in the game. And the most astonishing thing? Apart from the man on the door, I was the only person there. — Richard Morrison, The Times, 6 October 2007
It's not often that Free Lions comes over all cultured, but we thought we'd bring to your attention a work of art celebrating the crowd at the 1966 World Cup final here at Wembley. [...] Naturally, being art, there's a twist. The original crowd noise is supplemented by the reactions of another crowd especially convened to watch a video of the final – in Manila in the Philippines. — Free Lions: The England Fanzine from the Football Supporters' Federation, September 2007
The immediate sensation is one of complete disembodiment; especially as you are likely to be alone or nearly alone in the abandoned store, yet feel as though surrounded by the thousands of raucous white shirts regularly found in the arena across the road. — Ossian Ward, Time Out, 26 September 2007
Pfeiffer’s work is meticulous and amounts to a vivisection of both a heroic moment in a specific cultural heritage and its ongoing translation into a myth, which is apparently translatable, mutable into other, broader contexts. His work uncovers and displays a suggestion towards a cultural identity that is there and at the same time not there, represented yet absent, perpetually on the verge of mirroring itself and/or its surroundings, implicating alternate perspectives. — Wiebke Gronemeyer, Whitehot Magazine, October 2007
Paul Pfeiffer is one of the most inventive artists currently working within the field of sound, video and new digital media today. Using sophisticated editing techniques to reconfigure footage from famous moments in pop music and sport, he creates works which look at the role iconic figures have within a global world of images to ask why we need these figures, and how we are made to identify with them.
Meticulously crafting moving sequences from the global archives of images, Pfeiffer has created a body of work that resonates prophetically with our present. His work examines the power of mediated imagery in a consumer-driven society where heroes and their worshipping communities are multiplied throughout the world.
Over the past seven years Pfeiffer has exhibited in group shows in many museums around the world including the MoMA and Whitney museums in New York, Venice Biennale, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London and the Castello di Rivoli, Turin. He has recently had one-person exhibitions in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and K21, Düsseldorf, Germany.
Brought up in the Philippines, Pfeiffer now lives and works in New York City.
Images: Interior of the empty warehouse space in Wembley Retail Park used for The Saints (left); Paul Pfeiffer in 2007 (above). Photographs: Thierry Bal
Who made this possible?