VDB Asks... Germán Bobe

Germán Bobe photographed by Simón Pedro.

Germán Bobe is a Chilean-born artist, working in mixed media—video, film, photography, performance, painting, collage and digital. Since 2019, his artistic expression has focused on electronic, sound, and image technology in emerging media. Bobe spotlights ideas behind fundamental human experiences such as the human body, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, politics, and Western colonialism. Bobe has studied and resided in Libya, Italy, the Netherlands, the United States, and Argentina; countries that deeply influenced his scientific and artistic career. He currently lives and works in Santiago, Chile.

Germán Bobe photographed by Simón Pedro.

1. Can you tell us something about your background?

I was born in Chile, 1963. In 1974, during a time of political turmoil, I embarked on a journey that shaped my identity in many ways. These early years were marked by the aftermath of the Chilean coup d’état, an event that prompted our family to seek refuge in foreign lands. At the age of 11, I began a nomadic existence, traversing through various countries and continents. Through this constant movement, I was exposed to a rich tapestry of cultures, and thus was enabled to experience the world from diverse perspectives. I encountered individuals from a wide array of backgrounds; these encounters left an indelible impression on my character and worldview.

2. What inspired you to become an artist? To use video?

From an early age, I was immersed in a world of photography and film. My father, a skilled amateur filmmaker, would capture and meticulously edit family moments on Super 8 film, creating a rich and well-documented family visual archive. My older brothers formed music bands.

Growing up in this environment, as I matured, I naturally gravitated towards photography, embracing the art form as my own, signaling the beginning of a personal exploration into the realm of capturing moments, creating and preserving memories through “my own lens.” I loved watching films. Intrigued by the allure of moving images, I felt compelled to venture into the realm of video and film. My first films were made with the family home Super 8 camera.

3. Did you have formal art training/schooling?

I embarked on a diverse educational journey. I began my studies in various academic disciplines (Film, Photography, Music, Painting, Science). After some years, I found myself growing weary of the traditional academic approach and the constraints of time-bound learning. Driven by a desire for more hands-on experiences and practical knowledge, I made the decision to prioritize doing and learning through direct engagement in my chosen art form.

4. How do you balance life and art? Are you able to make a living through creating art?

[I balance life and art] by constantly applying to grants and fellowships. I get additional fees from licensing, screenings, workshops, and exhibitions.

Since 2008, I have had a small business––a communication and media agency. Through it, I use my experience in helping artists and entrepreneurs communicate effectively for improved business operations.

5. What influences or motivates you in the world?

As a video artist, I am captivated by the nuances of documentation, nostalgia, and the intersection between reality and fantasy. Within these topics, I find endless fascination, and through my work, I strive to transcend the boundaries of the everyday and construct alternative realities that reflect my vision, seeking to create immersive experiences that invite viewers to escape into this world.

Furthermore, as an artist, I consider myself a passionate advocate for the LGBTQIA+ cause. Through my creative endeavors, I aim to champion the rights and experiences of this community, shedding light on struggles, triumphs, and unique perspectives. By embracing inclusivity, I strive to foster understanding and empathy, sparking conversations that challenge societal norms and promote acceptance. I hope to ignite change, celebrating diversity and empowering individuals to embrace their authentic selves.

6. What artists or movements are you following right now?

I am ceaselessly driven to explore and uncover new artists and art experiences. However, it is the past that resonates within me and serves as a wellspring of inspiration. Within the classics of art, and from the captivating allure of silent era films to the enigmatic world of French Film Noir, these creative and cinematic treasures ignite my imagination and shape my artistic vision.

Moreover, I find inspiration in the works of visionary artists such as Jean Cocteau, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Derek Jarman, and Andy Warhol. Their fearless exploration of unconventional themes and innovative artistic approaches left an indelible mark in me.

7. What was the last exhibition you saw?

I was captivated by the recent exhibition featuring Annibale Carracci's frescoes of the Herrera chapel, displayed at the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid. The presentation of this remarkable collection showcased an extraordinary assembly, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the grandeur of the original chapel and witness the recreation of its intricate decoration.

8. What has been the best screening experience of your work?

I consider myself fortunate to have had remarkable experiences through the exhibition of my art, encompassing various mediums such as films, videos, and installations. Among these experiences, there is one that holds significance, owing to the overwhelming response. The setting was an old cinema, capable of accommodating 300 people, and to our astonishment, the turnout exceeded expectations, necessitating additional screening. The line extended down the street, painting a picture of anticipation and intrigue.

All this for a completely anomalous 20-minute film, Moizéfala la desdichada, made with very few resources, flooded with songs, transvestites and transsexuals who speak “spaghetti” Japanese.

9. What are you working on right now?

Currently, immersed in the post-production stage of my latest project, a 10-minute music video titled Marcapasos, featuring an all-women cast. The storytelling is completed through the utilization of transmedia techniques, employing a diverse range of audiovisual formats across various platforms, weaving together a cohesive narrative.

Simultaneously, I am passionately engaged in the writing of the script for my upcoming 30-minute film Emociones Clandestinas, slated for production in 2024.

10. How do you start a piece? How do you know when a piece is finished?

I begin the creative process with investigation, then writing; I find inspiration in the topics I yearn to explore. I search for the initial spark of an idea, which will compel me to put my thoughts into words.

Determining when a piece is finished is a deeply intuitive process for me. It is a delicate balance of instinct and experience. This often involves stepping back, taking breaks, and allowing the piece to breathe and mature. I am committed to giving each work the time it deserves to evolve and reach its fullest potential.

11. What are you currently reading? Watching?

I find myself immersed in the world of films daily, continually seeking out new talents and fresh perspectives.

I am currently reading four books that are intricately tied to the research for my upcoming film Emociones Clandestinas.

Rereading the enthralling Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino, a book that captured my imagination with its imaginative storytelling and philosophical underpinnings.

Furthermore, three notable Chilean writers. Another type of music by Colombina Parra has caught my attention, it offers a unique perspective on music writing. Mauricio Redolés' The style of my mathematics delves into his enigmatic world of prose and poetry. From the perspective of the common people, he develops themes related to the human condition. Lastly, Marcelo Arce Garín's Gearbox; I consider him an interesting new poet and storyteller.

12. Additional thoughts:

Showcasing my work at Video Data Bank instills a sense of validation and fulfillment in my artistic journey. It signifies recognition and acceptance within a community that celebrates the power of video as a medium of expression and storytelling.

Simón Pedro.