Paul Pfeiffer was born in Hawaii, but was raised in the Philippines. His background includes attending Hunter College and the Whitney Independent Study Program. Pfeiffer is a famous pioneer in video, sculpture, and photography using recent computer technologies to examine the role that mass media plays in shaping consciousness. Pfeiffer invites his audience to exercise their imaginations and project their own fears and obsessions on his pieces, thus Pfeiffer’s sculptures consist of computer-generated recreations of props form Hollywood thrillers. In conjunction with his sculptures, Pfeiffer’s video works suggest a contemporary culture fixated on celebrities.
Pfeiffer has received numerous awards and fellowships, and was the inaugural recipient of the 2002 Bucksbaum Award. In 2002, Pfeiffer was an artist-in-residence at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and at ArtPace in San Antonio, Texas. In 2003, a traveling retrospective of his work was organized by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s List Visual Arts Center and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
Pfeiffer's current project during his artist residency is called, "Incarnator". Encarnador is the old Spanish term for the carver of Santos, or devotional images of the Catholic saints. In particular, it refers to the craftsperson specializing in the final step of Santo production in which the image is finished with a skin of paint, turning carved wood into human flesh. The video hones in on a particular workshop of wood carvers from the town of Paete, the centuries-old center of Santo production in the Philippines. The repetitive gestures of the carvers at work are explored visually in relation to the surrounding landscape, where the rice-planting season is underway. Timeworn traditions of manual labor are recast as a metaphor for the production and consumption of images in today's global marketplace. Justin Bieber is treated as a modern day incarnation of the Santo Nino or Infant Jesus, embodying the complex relationship between innocence and complicity, the sacred and profane in the perverse spaces and temporalities of global capitalism.