Poetic in its form, the film is a bold new experiment using what the artist calls her 'inner portraits'. It is an exercise in comprehending the importance of one’s breath, the gravity of which extorts itself when faced with its imminent loss.
AMOR AND PSYCHE (In Times of Plagues)
2020, Short film / Three-channel video
HD digital, colour with stereo sound, 9'10" min
16:9 (short film) or as three-channel immersive room installation
An itinerary into the “inner portraits” of the artists to look onto the possibilities and limits of the biological body, with breath as the element crossing the inner-outside border. Through inhabiting MRT and CT thorax scans, the video performance approaches chemical, physiological, psychological and spiritual aspects of breath. It is an exercise in comprehending the importance of one’s vital force, the gravity of which extorts itself when faced with its imminent loss. The work was envisioned during Stenke's clinical isolation for tuberculosis and the initial phase of its chemotherapy. It was resumed, actualised and rendered as a three-channel video during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in May 2020.
Online preview June 5, 2020
On the occasion of the online exhibit supporting the HELLAS COVID 3D SUPPLY
by Trojan DAO and Francesco Kiais
PixelsGARAGE Awards of Excellence
Special Mention in the category LOCKDOWN FILM
Winter Solstice 2020 Edition
Metropolis Film Festival
FUORINORMA #4 and #5 - La Via Neosperimentale del Cinema Italiano
Casa del Cinema, Rome, IT
January 18, 2022
MEET Digital Cultural Centre, Milan, IT
Presented by PAV Performance Art Vid
April 8, 2022
Kerala Short Film Festival
Arts for Resilience Online Festival 2.0
Centre for Community Culture Development, Hong Kong HK
April 12- June 12, 2022
Official Selection presented by Fuorinorma
Pune Short Film Festival
As the doctors say of a wasting disease,
to start with, it is easy to cure but difficult to diagnose;
after a time, unless it has been diagnosed and treated at the outset,
it becomes easy to diagnose but difficult to cure.
So it is in politics.
– Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
Andrea Pagnes: Tuberculosis is one of the oldest contagious infectious diseases. If neglected, it is potentially fatal. Even today, it is the cause of over 4000 deaths a day. It is caused by mycobacterium tuberculosis gram-variable, also called Koch's bacillus. It is often thought to be eradicated, but it is not. It is still present throughout the world, and only early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can defeat it. It is treacherous, invisible; it is transmitted by air, such as the viruses of colds, flu, and SARS-CoV-2. It has an incubation period that can vary from eight weeks to indefinitely, remaining dormant for many years in infected subjects without causing them any apparent harm.
The immune system can restrain it but not wholly defeat it. If some people with latent infection never develop active TB, some 5-10% of carriers will become ill during their lifetime. In this case, it can suddenly become active, as it happened in Verena in early summer 2019. We could not imagine that the fevers, progressive loss of appetite, reduction in body weight, tiredness and prolonged lack of concentration that afflicted her during the past years were symptoms of tuberculosis. We learned about it randomly at the beginning of August due to a magnetic resonance tomography that Verena had to undergo for a herniated cervical disc. Chemotherapeutical treatment to cure the disease lasted six months. Being a couple in art and life, I was always close to her, even during the three weeks of clinical isolation after the diagnosis. According to the doctors, I seemed immune to infection, perhaps because of the vaccination I had as a child or because Verena's disease had not yet become infectious. The idea of returning this experience in art form had arisen in both of us as soon as the isolation period had passed. However, we did not want to slip into a celebration of the illness, let alone a heroic mythification of the sick artist. First of all, we wanted to understand what effects and transformations two people who share everything suffer when an illness occurs in a completely unexpected way, altering habits, dynamics and balances of relationships. To live the prolonged treatment and rehabilitation process and then, once finished, to go back to what had been.
Verena Stenke: We both have been practising breathing techniques such as Prānāyāma, Transpersonal Rebirthing and Creative Dynamic Breathing for a long time. We also have been looking into the chemical and physiological processes involved in these practices. And then, pathogenic microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria are inextricably linked to species by a co-evolutionary relationship. They co-exist in reciprocity, compromise, struggle, acceleration, extinction, awakening, modification and adaptation. During the course of my illness, patience has been the most important lesson. Isolated from the social context, I found myself involved in a much more comprehensive natural process. I experienced elemental connections with nature previously unknown to me, forces that we cannot control, ascribed to the enigmas of our origins. In a radical subjectification, I wondered if the soul itself belonged to biochemistry, like breathing. And just like breathing, during the months of the illness, my being oscillated between feverish obsessions, luminous intuitions due to mental hyperesthesia, psycho-pathologies caused by the toxicity of the bacterial action in the lungs and medicines, symptoms of poisoning, loss of self-control, semi-asphysious due to the accumulation of carbon dioxide due to the lack of oxygen. And then, the will to resist, to understand. Hope results from the suspension of critical capacity caused by a lack of oxygen in the prefrontal cortex. The ego becomes something else. Spes phthisica, the state of euphoria in patients with pulmonary tuberculosis, pervades the being intermittently, but in an absolute sense: it is a kind of rebellion before stepping beyond, the lucid dream of a life, the face of love. At other times, the total numbness of the spirit leads everything to concentrate in one place.
I listened to the breath, the danger of losing it forever for an invisible cause that acted within me. Perhaps, if something can kill us imperceptibly and unnoticed from within, then there could also be something that can counteract it, invisibly feeding the strength to survive.