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gob squad saves the world

australia’s panther at work in berlin

PANTHER is Madeleine Hodge and Sarah Rodigari, a performance collaboration currently based in Melbourne.
www.pantherpanther.com

Gob Quad, Kitchen—You’ve never had it so good Gob Quad, Kitchen—You’ve never had it so good
WE ARRIVE IN BERLIN TO MEET GOB SQUAD FOR THE FIRST DAY OF THE SECOND PHASE OF REHEARSALS ON A NEW WORK THEY ARE CALLING SAVING THE WORLD. HAVING SEEN THE LAST FEW DAYS OF REHEARSALS OF THEIR 2005 PRODUCTION KING KONG CLUB, WE ARE FAMILIAR WITH THE SYSTEM. THERE IS NO DIRECTOR OR LEADER. THERE ARE SIX CORE ARTISTS, BRITISH AND GERMAN, WHO ARE JOINED ON EACH PROJECT BY TWO TO FOUR GUEST ARTISTS, A TEAM OF VIDEO AND SOUND AND TECHNICAL CREW, AND PRODUCTION PEOPLE. THIS COLLECTIVE SYSTEM LENDS ITSELF TO A CERTAIN SORT OF ANARCHY WHERE DECISIONS SEEM TO BE MADE BY THE LOUDEST OR MOST PERSISTENT VOICE IN THE ROOM OR WHOEVER HAS THE LAST SAY.

In 2005 we soon found ourselves standing nervously backstage for a trial run of King Kong Club dressed as hairy apes alongside 28 other ape-suited audience members. For the next thirty minutes we gleefully followed the firm but charming directions of five Gob Squad performers (dressed as film directors) through the filming of various nightclub scenarios: an orgy, a boot-scooting dance, a rock band performance, a cocaine snorting toilet scene and some pole dancing. Each scenario lasted only a few minutes before we were whisked away by another director into another phantasmagoria; heroic, awkward and ridiculously good fun.

The end of the filming is not the end of the show, there is brief intermission (to allow time for some clever edits) before we sit in the theatre and watch the movie we have just created. It seems that to see a Gob Squad performance is to literally be part it. It’s the immediacy of Gob Squad’s performances, this seamlessness between performance, video, and audience that excites us and leads us straight back their studios when we visit Berlin again.

We are back in 2007 to sit in on two weeks of development of the company’s latest production, Saving the World. The concept seems simple enough, Gob Squad arrive in a city and find a town square. “The best way to think about the kind of place we are looking for is that it’s the kind of place where you would set up an Imbiss (a German food van)”, says Sean Patton. They then film, via a complex system of cameras, a full, seven-camera panoramic view of the square. This material is then played back to an audience in a large theatre filled with the 360 degree seven-screen film. “Saving” therefore also means capturing, recording and preserving, and even understanding. The project seems to be simultaneously trying to deal with the end of things as well as the possibilities for utopian beginnings.

Gob Squad create performance events that combine audience interaction, live video and performance in real time; editing, if any, happens during the event itself. The company have been developing this performance genre over a number of years and how they use it is central to the conceptual development of each work. In each piece a relationship is formed between the audience and the performers in the creation of filmed live action. Saving the World will have its world premiere in June at Kampnagel, Hamburg.

During the development period we witnessed a number of wild discussions over cake and coffee about video time versus real time in the new work. How would the work capture a full 24-hour period in the square and show it back in a two hour theatre piece? What time periods is it important to capture or save? How then does the captured time of the panoramic video recordings relate to the live time in the theatre? Is it important to maintain a link between the recorded world and the world inside? Should the filming be done in the 24 hours before each show; or does the link in time not matter; can it be filmed next week and shown in May; what does this do to the relationship between film and audience? Alongside all of this, technical experts in the company are testing the possibilities for the successful execution of any of the many possibilities that are raised in these discussions. Our minds reel at the possibilities that are opened up in the fertile grounds that are Gob Squad’s cake and coffee afternoons.

Gob Squad, Kitchen—You’ve never had it so good Gob Squad, Kitchen—You’ve never had it so good
After a week of being in Gob Squad’s world, we are invited to see a rehearsal and then performance of their most recently completed work. In Kitchen—You’ve never had it so good, Gob Squad create their own Warhol Factory playing themselves in three Andy Warhol films, Kitchen, Sleep and a series of screen tests. The premise is very simple, or at least it should be. It’s a kitchen with people doing things in it. It’s a person sleeping. It’s a couch with a person staring into camera. The lights go down and three films start rolling simultaneously.

“Hello, thanks for coming, and welcome to Gob Squad’s factory. My name is Biret and tonight I will be paying the part of Biret in a film called Kitchen by Andy Warhol. It is New York 1965 and the times are a changing…and here in Kitchen we are at the cusp of everything because this film that we are in is the essence of its time.”

These films are projected simultaneously onto a single screen in a theatre. Behind it Gob Squad are performing live to camera in three adjoining film sets. They move in and out of the films, swapping the roles of various clichéd personas from the Warhol era. The films are each constantly undermined by disruptions happening in the others.

Seeing this re-enactment is like watching a group of people trying to work out how to make a period film. They can’t quite get it right and, of course, this is the point. Too much time has passed, too much has changed between 1965 and now. The essence of Warhol’s time is not the essence of Gob Squad’s time. In their frustration, the performers stop the film, they walk out from behind the screen and one by one replace themselves with an audience member. The performance ends with Gob Squab in the audience. With us standing in their place, they can be a blank canvas; they can be whoever they want to be. Gob Squad are making a new film before our very eyes and it’s free of histories. They are capturing the essence of here, right now; live in front of a camera and with an audience.

When we return to the studio the following week to work on Saving the World, we start again puzzling out the performance, trying things out, coming up with simple structures, short sequences that might be what we’re looking for. We go out into the street with cameras and try it all out—homemade time lapse, talking to passersby about the future, trying to explain the world. As we go through this process we realise again that the openness, robust experimentation and curiosity witnessed in Gob Squad’s performances is carried over into the way they make work. The process of making the work is much like the final product: people are invited in, the world opens up to Gob Squad and Gob Squad opens up to the world.

As we are leaving Sarah Thom smiles her winning smile at us and says, “Bye Panthers. Feel free to steal anything from us that you like!” Perhaps they are saving the world in more ways than one.


www.gobsquad.com

PANTHER is Madeleine Hodge and Sarah Rodigari, a performance collaboration currently based in Melbourne.
www.pantherpanther.com

RealTime issue #83 Feb-March 2008 pg. 34

© Panther ; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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