ANAM CARA – Mirror in the Mirror (2020)

Performance-based film

HD digital, 16:9, colour, stereo, 01:30:06

A radical, contemporary fairy tale. A collective performance-based film about the concept of home, produced and co-created across Europe, the U.S. and Canada during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown in April and May 2020. In the rooms of an imaginary dwelling, we encounter twenty-two artists in performance action, rituals and poetic sharing about their isolated notions of home: a place-non-place, where the invisible is made visible and vice versa. Without inside or outside, we recognise the rooms because they originate from the depths of our hearts. There, encounters continue to be possible despite distance, quarantine and insulation. What does "home" mean when being forced inside, with insecurity, unpredictability, disease and death being the denominators of the moment? What can body-based artists speak about then, and to whom? Physically distant, how can a collective co-creative spirit be kept up?

A production by VestAndPage as part of the HOME cycle of collective performance operas, in collaboration with the Anam Cara Collective, 2020

By and with Verena Stenke & Andrea Pagnes (VestAndPage) in collaboration with Aldo Aliprandi, Marianna Andrigo, Sabrina Bellenzier, Giorgi de Santi, daz disley, Marisa Garreffa, Francesco Kiais, Fenia Kotsopoulou, Ash McNaughton, Enok Ripley, Sara Simeoni, Mauro Sambo, Joseph Morgan Schofield, Marcel Sparmann, Susanne Weins, and Giovanni Dantomio, Giorgio de Battisti, Susanna Petternella (Studio Contemporaneo), as well as with contributions by Marilyn Arsem and Franko B.

With original music by Aldo Aliprandi, daz disley, Nat Norland and Mauro Sambo.

The film is inspired by The mirror in the mirror: A Labyrinth, a collection of surreal short stories by Michael Ende originally published in 1984.

+ Watch as Video On Demand

+ SPECIAL MENTION in EXPERIMENTAL FILM category in the WINTER SOLSTICE 2020 Edition of the PixelsGARAGE Awards of Excellence

+ Download the Film Poetry Textbook (PDF)


/ Private Preview / Castello di Rocca Sinibalda, Italy

July 27 2020, 19:00

Preview in the occasion of the finissage of Endecameron 20 digital edition

/ Europe Online Preview / DRIP, Liverpool, UK

August 19, 2020, 19:30 (GMT+1)

UK Preview screening on the occasion of SPILL YER TEA

/ Colombia Online Preview / Acciones Al Margen, Bucaramanga, CO

Saturday, August 29, 2020, 15:00 (COT)

/ Asia Online Preview / Arts for Resilience Online Festival, Hong Kong

Centre for Community Cultural Development

September 4, 2020, 20:00 (HKT)

Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade, RS

Performance Art Film Program

February 6, 2021. 20:30

CINE+PERFO, Buenos Aires, AR

December 2021

An original experiment in fusing different art forms to create a comprehensive offering which while maintaining the unique flavours of each of its ingredients, leaves behind a nouveau aftertaste that will soothe the soul. What makes the whole idea even more delightful is that it manifests at a time when the entire world was grappling with a situation that is unpredictable, insecure and gloomy.


–Verena Stenke (VestAndPage), July 2020


When the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns brought Europe to a halt in March 2020, I went back to take refuge in my imagination and fantasy because of the overall impossibility of producing and presenting any live performance works. And so came the vision of creating an imaginary place where we could meet our artist-colleagues and continue co-creating body-based art collectively, despite being obliged to physical distance.


During recent years, I developed the White Crow's protagonist figure for our performance works, someone between a memento mori and a fierce fairytale creature. I read the surrealist short story The Mirror in the Mirror by German writer Michael Ende during the lockdown. They made me think of realizing a film in which, as in Ende's book, all episodes have their own protagonists in their private place of isolation, but are related to each other through literary leitmotif.


I shared this vision with a group of artist friends, with whom Andrea and I had already begun an intense collaboration in 2018 and whose artistic views and voices we esteem. I invited them into this imaginary place, inviting their sharing of creative answers to the central question of what "home" means to them at this very moment. This question springs from our current performance cycle HOME, a concept which Andrea and I have been interrogating since 2017 through a series of collective performance operas.


I placed no intentional "deadline" (a word that I dislike for its factuality and mere literal meaning) or other limitations for the production of these contributions, as lockdown had brought us all into emotional limbos. Some found themselves in artistic paralysis or confronted with the prosaic quest to secure a living. Andrea and I profess the potential of moments of crisis and the trust in change, so we encouraged to inhabit these situations artistically and work from there. Some had already started their own projects in response to the lockdown. Others had never performed for a camera before, with little technical knowledge. I invited them to use what they had at their disposal. In the process of continuous feedback, I edited their material in line with the film's poetics. There have been those who created powerful diary writings, and I encouraged them to record these in their mother tongue to be used as voice-overs. Others savvier in video making created works that just needed to be placed in the timeline. Others bestowed sound pieces, writings, drawings, and impressions of a surrealistically emptied Venice, the city of our collective encounters in real life. It was, above all, a process of listening and letting the pieces fall into place – a place for everything and everything in its place, which we draw from our manifesto of performance-based filmmaking "Poetics of Relations".


To provide a red thread for the disparate elements of this story-non-story into a non-linear narrative, I worked with the analogue and digital intersections to create our imaginary collective dwelling site, the "castle of mirroring books". In the film, this castle is part of a larger universe. It springs from an old photograph album that the figure of a White Bunny reads in a flowering garden. The White Bunny is the tender raconteur: she opens the story through a poetic recall of the weeks of the lockdown. She bridges the artists' rooms with her cogitations on home and guides us back to reality from evanescence once the collective dreams fade away.


In the film, there is just a single real mirror to be seen.




To share the meanings of Home was a great challenge and yet, an eye-opening journey and safe space through the lockdown. The notion of Staying became an act of rooting, the notion of Home an act of loving dwelling amid falling and uncertainty.

–Marcel Sparmann