A Silver Lion for Gob Squad

16.06.2024, Venice, Teatro Biennale
Silver Lion Award Ceremony Speech

“We are a collective. No one is in charge here, you could say that we are all the boss. This is your chance now to project on us…”

“What we are trying to say is that we know you need this projection. Because you are all lonely. That’s why you are here tonight. That’s why you paid good money to feel part of something, to identify with something bigger than just you. That’s why we’re all here, right? Let’s fight this loneliness together.”

We speak these words directly to the audience at the beginning of our piece ‘Revolution Now!’. In the show, we try to harness all the collective power and energy of the audience and performers and focus it into one video camera, positioned centrally on the stage. We sing, make pictures, read poems, share secrets and play electric guitars, all performing to this one camera. The camera is linked to one video screen placed outside the theatre. It’s the smallest possible version of a media empire.  The aim here is to persuade one random passer-by to stop whatever they had planned for that evening, and come inside the theatre, talk about changing the world, and stand onstage as a symbol of hope that change is possible.

Naive and simplistic? Maybe. We’ve been called a lot of things over the 30 years since we started, and the world we live in today has changed a lot since back then. Thankfully, Gob Squad was born into a 1990s Europe of free arts education and efforts to democratise culture. Curiosity and openness, the ability to embrace fragility and failure, which are all features of Gob Squad’s work, are not just characteristics you are born with. They come from such a cultural landscape which values small scale, independent work. A cultural landscape which is fragile and should not be taken for granted.

If we are all ‘foreigners everywhere’, how can we avoid misunderstandings and distrust? We hold on to the utopian, optimistic ethos which is part and parcel of working as a collective. Working as a ‘we’ or ‘us’ is a political gesture that rejects the cult of the individual. We try and grow the collective with each project to bring people together, often strangers who wouldn’t normally have contact with each other, sometimes people who are unfamiliar with theatre itself. In Elephants in Rooms, we connect performers from India, China, German and Britain. In Creation, we make links across the generational divide. And of course we also connect to the audience, that group of individuals who come together to be part of something bigger, at least for a few hours.

Thank you so very much for this prize!

Thanks to Artistic Directors Stefano Ricci and Gianni Forte, the Biennale President Pietrangelo Buttafuoco and the entire Board of La Biennale di Venezia. When we started 30 years ago, right from day one our dream was collective. There are enough solo so-called geniuses, no need for any more. No one single one of us is the boss. Or you could say we are all the boss. So who is Gob Squad? Who is getting this prize? The simple answer is it’s the people you see onstage here who are representing the various other guest performers, designers, artists and technicians from other projects who aren’t here today. It’s all the people who work or have worked in the office who rarely get to come on tour to places like this. Thank you to them too. And thankyou to all curators and programmers who believed in us, especially in the projects which didn’t work out so well. Our longest-running supporter travelled to be here today – Aenne Quiñones from HAU Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin..

But also this prize and our thanks go to the hundreds of people over the years, random people on the streets, those who stopped what they were doing, and with a curious mind, and an open heart, have paused for a moment to talk to us, changed their path and joined in a theatrical game which often has no fixed plan or outcome. It is those people who should also be thanked. They became we, and in doing so give us hope that changing the world for the better is possible.

Thank you!