Meet Gob Squad
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT / Sharon Smith, Berit Stumpf, Sean Patten, Sarah Thom, Johanna Freiburg, Bastian Trost and Simon Will
PHOTOGRAPHY / Garrett Davis
Gob Squad is a seven headed monster, an arts collective with seven bosses. Gob Squad has a schizophrenic identity and a multiple split personality: hermaphrodite, binational and bilingual, both a patchwork family and a social utopia. Gob Squad have been devising, directing and performing together since 1994, working where theatre meets art, media and real life.
Always on the hunt for beauty amidst the mundane, they place their work at the heart of urban life: in houses, shops, underground stations, car parks, hotels or directly on the street, as well as in theatres and galleries. Everyday life and magic, banality and idealism, reality and entertainment are all set on a collision course and the unpredictable results are captured on video.
Motivated by a desire to elevate the everyday and empower audience members to step beyond their traditional role as passive spectators, Gob Squad set up often absurdly utopian scenarios where meaningful collective experience and genuine encounters involving passers-by and audience members are suddenly possible. Audiences seem to like the feeling that anything might happen during an evening with Gob Squad. They might be asked to dance, sing or even kiss one of the performers. They might play guitar in a band, play the part of a lover or liberator in a semi-improvised film, or be asked to explain the complexities of the world to an unknown future. Or they might just simply be asked to sit and bear witness to the organised chaos unfolding on stage before them.
For 20 years, Gob Squad have been searching for new ways to combine media and performance, producing stage shows, video installations, radio plays, interactive live films and urban interventions. The use of audio and video technology plays a prominent role in their work, with the result that alienated forms of intimacy have become a central theme. They try to scratch beneath the shiny, pixelated surface of the 21st century, seeking out the dark corners and hidden desires of contemporary culture.
Gob Squad was founded in 1994, whilst its members were still at Nottingham Trent and Giessen universities. Berlin has been the group’s creative home since 1999. Core members are Johanna Freiburg, Sean Patten, Sharon Smith, Berit Stumpf, Sarah Thom, Bastian Trost and Simon Will. Other artists are invited to collaborate on particular projects. The group is managed by Eva Hartmann.
Gob Squad’s international reputation has grown steadily since coming to prominence at documenta X in 1997. Their productions have been shown on all the continents apart from Antarctica. Projects such as Super Night Shot (2003), Gob Squad’s Kitchen (2007, winner of New York’s Drama Desk Award), Saving The World (2008, winner of the Goethe Preis at the Impulse Festival), Before Your Very Eyes (2011, selected for Germany’s Theatertreffen) and most recently Western Society (2013) have received wide acclaim.