Gallery Weekend brings a densely packed schedule of exhibition openings and events to Berlin each year. It’s a time when bustling crowds flood Potsdamer Strasse and the like, weaving in and out of the many spaces that open their doors with new exhibitions, performances, events and parties. It’s a lot of ground to cover, in a city that regularly hosts a wide array of art spaces and programming. With this in mind, we decided to take the time to focus a bit on exhibition openings themselves – or rather, the activity of attending them.
As social spaces and spaces for art, there is a certain level of staging involved in the presentation of the opening reception and the people who visit it. We see and are seen in this atmosphere, often within a series of projected performances and closed interactions.
On this topic, we met with the Berlin-based performance and video artist Patrick Jambon – also known as Turbo Jambon. After quickly spotting him at our meeting location – dressed in his signature bright color palette and thick metallic eyeglass frames – we sat down to talk about his performance of presence, specifically within the context of exhibition openings, which is a project he’s been carrying out more or less since his arrival in Berlin in 2001.
Space Invader, 2015, performance by Patrick Jambon at Global Alien Anniversary, photo by Dong-Ha Choe.
Jambon’s work is centered on initiating interactive performance in public space, and the role technology plays in facilitating these interactions. His presence, or – as he describes – his omnipresence, at openings in Berlin is well recognized, and even recorded, by other visitors and the hosts of these events.
After studying in Dusseldorf and Cologne, Jambon moved to Berlin, where he soon became an active participant in the city’s more lively art network and higher concentration of events. Part research project, part performance, his persistent participation in openings started out more or less incidentally.
At the beginning, I just went and, because I’m kind of visible – I have these glasses and the colorful clothes – people started to recognize and approach me. They would ask about me, or tell me they’ve seen me before, or ask about the glasses. It then became a bit of a game, to be visible and omnipresent. My research is also focused on audience as performance, so it was interesting for me.
He took out a folded piece of paper, onto which a list had been written in black ink.
I just started making the list for today. I make one almost every day, with information compiled from various online sources. Then I try to attend as many events as possible from that list.
It was what he had been working on in the library, just before we met.
I’ve been saving the lists for the past year or so – because people kept telling me I should. Also, since people often take photographs of me at openings, I’m now trying to find and collect them. I don’t have any plans for the photos; I’m just collecting them for me. It’s interesting to see myself as part of the audience. It’s also convenient to be so colorful, because even though there’s a crowd I can always find myself.
Donkey Kong, performance by Patrick Jambon at CROSSING BORDER BORDER CROSSING – International Festival of CrossingMedia, JCCA, Hong Kong, 2016, pictures by Nenad Bogdanovic.
The nature of Jambon’s performance, in which he is present, as a passive spectator, yet facilitates the interactions of others, coincides with his broader practice.
I do performance, but it’s more like portable installation. I’m using structures and placing myself inside the installation. I then use video games to interact with the audience. I don’t actually do that much during the performance. I’m just there, present in the installation. The audience can play the game as I watch.
The opening – or the public art event, more broadly – is another structure that Jambon places himself within and makes portable through his own activation. Staged as both performer and audience, he observes and acts as catalyst for certain social dynamics that emerge within this very specific setting.
Of course, Jambon’s performance of presence at exhibition openings is a more visible iteration of what many of us do. We often record and share our attendance at such events by taking selfies, photos of the crowds, the exhibition space and the artwork, as we pop in and out of various venues around the city on any given night. Though Jambon’s presence is largely documented by the presence of others.
Actually, many people seem to be doing the same – and some maybe even more than I am. I meet them quite often and they have all kinds of different motivations. So, I’m becoming interested in the other people doing this as well.
New job, performance by Patrick Jambon at jieaf 2015, picture by Hyeron Jo.