Last Saturday, Leipzig-based American artist Maeshelle West-Davies invited me to meet up with her on Eisenbahnstraße. She was touring the neighborhood as part of Leipzig Stadtteilexpeditionen, headed by Diana Wesser. In it, people join up in groups to go around and get to know the different communities in Leipzig, one at a time, talking to locals at stands and shops along the way. To be honest, I missed most of it, unfortunately, because I got there too late and got too hungry (I was running on Brazilian time). On the bright side, I happened to make a stop at Bistro Syrien, Eisenbahnstr. 116, and ate the best fast food I’ve ever had in Leipzig (if you can call it that… it seemed pretty high quality to me, unless it was my starvation speaking). And thankfully, I wasn’t too late for Maeshelle’s art installation. When I got to the address indicated on the tour map I was given at Japanische Haus, she was still setting up her small tent with the help of some people who’d joined the neighborhood tour.
But soon… and suddenly…
Maeshelle disappears into the tent, and a bear-faced figure pops out and completely takes over her art installation; becomes the art installation itself. This Panda-like character wants to take pictures with everyone, and asks them repeatedly to post the photos on Instagram. Pam de Bahr is her name. Pam de Bahr is apparently obsessed with Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Actually, that’s where she lives, on online platforms, Maeshelle tells me when she reappears and is able to get a word in. Maeshelle calls Pam de Bahr a “millennial” in her habits, but she was born more recently than Generation Y – in Generation Z, perhaps, a “post-millennial” – and not from an actual womb. She was born from… Maeshelle’s artistic womb. According to Maeshelle, Pam de Bahr sprang out as a response to the online dating culture where people, by trying to appear to be doing something in their profile photos that sets them apart from others, all end up looking the same.
“This generation has grown up online,” Maeshelle writes on her Web site. “The internet is in effect their best friend. They share their daily lives with all its ups and downs. Nothing is too monumental or mundane. Hopes, dreams, insecurities, fears…….food. I’m exploring a life lead only online through Pam. This work is an interactive piece. I need you to participate. Please friend, like and follow her. She likes it when you tag or hashtag her :-)”
The response from people who have come across Pam de Bahr during her occasional offline wanderings has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Maeshelle. They are happy to take photos with her. Maybe you’ll be lucky to spot de Bahr live and in 3D one of these days as well. But it’s a safer bet to find her online, where she prefers to be, anyway.
To get in touch:
pamdebahr on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
she is also available on snapchat