Jirka Pfahl

Year of birth, place
1976, Wurzen, Germany
Role at the ZKM
in the collection

Jirka Pfahl saves potted plants disposed in trash cans from death, and successfully nurtures them back to health. He positions square seating surfaces and non-objective paintings in the exhibition space and challenging us – “punch” –, to hit them. He brought back an almost rotten carpet he found on streets of Moscow to his studio, and uses its reverse side as a printing block. He plays his game with art – as he also does with us. In this way he reveals himself in a highly subtle manner: the artist, born in Wurzen, in 1976, has dedicated himself to a kind of paradox: on the one hand, his works display conceptual features while, on the other, they become tangible, connotative material in space. He turns and uses words, reflects on art history, and establishes hitherto unseen connections. Texts written about the artist frequently describe his works as Concept Art. Such classifications fail to fully hit the mark, however, since Pfahl goes one step further. His works also exhibit a process of appropriation – both with respect to materials as well as to concepts and works by colleagues and great artists in history. The things Pfahl uses have a history and give voice to their materiality, whether mundane things such as banknotes, cable ties, Ketchup bottles or plasterboard walls. He began executing works of self-referential net art, such as “ftp-performance” (with Leander Seige), and undertook a critical study of file formats.


Among others, Jirka Pfahl studied media art with Beatrice von Bismarck at the renowned Academy of Visual Arts (HGB) in Leipzig, and was a student in Helmut Mark’s master class. He also studied under Joseph Kosuth at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich. Together with three fellow students he ran the Off-Space (gallery) “Hobbyshop” in Munich from 2005 till 2008, which he co-founded in 1999.