Pulheim Jam Session investigates notions of locality, the logic of staging and participation. Billing parallels two distinct activities: a traffic jam and a jamming session, exploring their respective freedoms and constraints simultaneously.
In its first iteration, the work took place as a participatory event within the confines of Stadtbild-Intervention: an outdoors project supported by the city of Pulheim established in 1998. Billing’s intervention consisted of more than 60 cars carrying over 100 people from Pulheim, Germany. In the countryside, a traffic jam is constructed as a staged procession, marking the short commuting distance to Cologne. During the 1970s, Pulheim’s 12 constituting villages were amalgamated into a single municipality, a city that today is largely constituted by rural in-between spaces.
This traffic jam opposes the protracted mundanity of the usual incident and instead shifts to the organisational structure of a music festival, featuring: a Red Cross safety van, outdoor toilets and volunteers in yellow jackets. Backgrounded by plumes of pollution, wind turbines and fields of corn and turnip, the film depicts people spontaneously loitering: eating fruit, doing crosswords, playing with their dogs in the fields and simply talking.
Parallel to the traffic jam, in a nearby barn, the Swedish musician Edda Magnason is improvising on a grand piano. Forty years earlier, on 24 January 1975 in Cologne, in the same year as Pulheim’s reform, the American pianist Keith Jarrett held a live improvised concert in Cologne Opera House: the now-famous Köln Concert. Billing’s film fuses the history of these two seemingly unrelated events by virtue of their geography and individuals’ memory and experience of the area. With her sociological interest in the phenomenon of the traffic jam and the intertwining of private and public space, Billing constructs a time-space between document, memory and repetition.Rent this work for public screenings