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Gobbing for 20 years

INTERVIEW. The city cult institution Gob Squad invites you to “Be Part of Something Bigger” at the group’s weekend-long 20-year anniversary extravaganza, happening November 20-22 at HAU. Don't miss!

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Photo by Garrett Davis

Gob Squad member Sean Patten invites you to “Be Part of Something Bigger” at the group’s weekend-long 20-year anniversary extravaganza, happening November 20-22 at HAU.

In the early 1990s, an artist collective was formed that built a bridge between Nottingham, England and Berlin. Twenty years later, Gob Squad is one of the city’s cult institutions. Their “Warhol-esque” performances turn up the notch on our flashiness and the general apathy we use to mask our inner weaknesses, using an abundance of pop culture to examine modern society.

What’s the Gob Squad aesthetic?

We reflect on and use the language of the culture we see around us: quite shiny and colourful, but also interesting is the ‘heart of darkness’ at the centre of all of us. A lot of our topics are about loneliness – wanting to connect with fellow humans, and the difficulty therein. Death, and the flip-side of that coin, is the fraternisation of the moment. The ‘right here, right now’ idea.

There are a lot of deliberately, superficially constructed high points in our work, creating a big spectacle or a big participative moment that quickly melts away so you are left wondering about eternity, mortality and the human condition. Being a collective is sort of our big, over-arching project, especially within the context of the system that we live in – individuals, hierarchical structures, superstars and geniuses.

Thinking about the art world, we try to be the fly in the ointment.

Have your political statements changed over the past 20 years?

We are still very committed to the concept of collective work, as a political statement. It’s quite unfashionable to be a ‘collective’ at this time – that sort of belongs to the 1970s, in a way. This is our general overriding mission, and that’s why for our 20th birthday weekend event at HAU, we aren’t just putting on a showcase of Gob Squad work.

We want to treasure this idea of collectivity, ask questions about it. We’ve invited all kinds of other artists and speakers, and people who have experience in collectives outside of art, so we can all come together and ask: what is a collective? The pros and cons of what’s really going on beneath the surface, the psychology of that.

Your pieces always offer, whether directly or indirectly, an interactivity with the audience. How will you use this at the HAU event?

The weekend isn’t about the audience sitting in the dark consuming. It’s about getting involved – there are all kinds of opportunities to get interactive, not just watch. There will be artists talks, and interesting theories that play out as well. There will be a huge dinner table where people come and eat hot soup and are encouraged to converse with their neighbours. There’s a big sort of dance-type karaoke thing, with all kinds of clips from music videos and films where people dance and such, and the audience will dance along with them.

It’s varied, with a whole film and music programme. We are trying to reach out to all kinds of different people, and other collectives. We hope people might come who have perhaps never seen a Gob Squad show, but are interested in this idea of collectivity, and want to come along and find out how it works.

Be Part of Something Bigger, November 20-22 | HAU1, HAU2, Stresemannstr. 29, Hallesches Ufer 32, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Hallesches Tor.

Originally published in issue #132, November 2014.