Show Me Your Shelves! is a two-city exhibition featuring Black artists from Germany and the US. First in Detroit and then in Houston, the show brings together artists reflecting on common structures and experiences between German Afro-diasporic cultures and African American perspectives, as well as the differences. Using sound, performance, and video, Janine Jembere is a German artist who explores the body and history. C& spoke to the artist about thinking through sound, belonging as a troubling question, and citation as a conscious act of connecting.
C&: How have you come to choose the mediums that you work with?
Janine Jambere: I am a filmmaker by training, and while I was studying I also took to working with sound, installation, and performance. My pursuit of other media has to do with how I think an idea can best be expressed, and in large part is also due to the contexts I am working in – the people and places I feel close to and that help me grow.
C&: How do your ideas about sensuality and the body converse with the sound you produce?
Janine Jambere: I work with sound that engages the body in a way that makes conventions present. It is work that questions how we use our bodies to perceive and what is expected from our bodies in specific settings. My ongoing lecture series in the breaks, for example, is framed like an academic lecture or reading, so people sit down and are ready to listen. But I talk only very little, and mainly play music and listen with the public. This for me is a way to insert expressions of knowledge that go beyond words into a context that often writes and thinks about sound, but not with or through sound. But also the music is so danceable at times that the act of sitting down turns into an exercise in discipline – it takes a lot of willpower to sit still. I am interested in creating moments where this becomes evident, because I believe that in all kinds of settings there are disciplining mechanisms of our bodies and senses in place that often go unnoticed.
C&: How would you define your position as an artist and individual within a global Diaspora?
Janine Jambere: As someone who is second-generation German, my experience and self-understanding is different from that of others who have migrated themselves or live in places with bigger Black communities. I am troubled by questions of belonging and not belonging, and maybe that is diasporic in itself. To me, Diaspora as a concept contains a firm stand for freedom of movement – for challenging borders and oppressive ideologies of unity, and for making meaningful connections across differences and spaces. As an artist, I find the work of art institutions and artists of the Black Diaspora in other parts of the world a great inspiration. And of course the people, initiatives, and spaces that carve out room here in Germany, like Ballhaus Naunynstraße, eoto, and Savvy Contemporary, are really important.
C&: What draws you to the concept of Show Me Your Shelves?
Janine Jambere: I understand Show Me Your Shelves as an exchange of ideas, as something generous. As my own practice tends to be very open and equally interested in sharing information and being informed, moving and being moved, I think it’s a good fit.
C&: Could you share with us the concept of your work for the Show Me Your Shelves! exhibition?
Janine Jambere: My work to cite: diaspora is based on the idea of citation as a conscious act of connecting, of giving attention to and aligning oneself with others. I put this in conversation with the concept of Diaspora, which is also about making and maintaining connection. The piece works a bit like a radio show or podcast. Focusing on music and musicians has allowed me to show how citation is not limited to the written word but resonates in a multitude of practices.
Show Me Your Shelves! presented by C& took place in Detroit Public Library (Main, Skillman, Parkman), Detroit, United States, from 17 July 2019 to 18 August 2019. In Houston the exhibition will be open from 30 October until 26 November at Gregory School Library.
Janine Jembere was born 1985 in Magdeburg/Germany. She is a filmmaker and soundartist working in different constellations on performances, educational projects, films and filmprograms, soundworks, and interventions. Jembere studied visual communication/media at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg, Germany, from 2005 until 2011 and was a guest student at the Department for Fine Arts and Design at the Addis Abeba University, Ethiopia in 2008. Since 2014 she is a participant in the PhD in Practice program at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Austria.
Interview by Will Furtado.
This text was commissioned within the framework of the project “Show me your Shelves”, which is funded by and is part of the yearlong campaign “Wunderbar Together (“Deutschlandjahr USA”/The Year of German-American Friendship) by the German Foreign Office.