ANAM CARA – Mirror in the Mirror (2020)
HD digital, 16:9, colour, stereo, 01:30:06
A collective performance-based film about the concept of home, produced during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown in April and May 2020. Twenty-two artists co-created across Athens, Belluno, Berlin, Boston, Düsseldorf, Florence, Folkestone, Lincoln, London, Montreal, Neckarsulm, Venice and Weimar. The result is the filmic journey through an imaginary dwelling. In the rooms, we encounter the 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 there, and when insecurity, unpredictability, disease and death are 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, Ashley-Louise 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.
27 July 2020, 19:00
Preview in occasion of the finissage of Endecameron 20 digital edition
August 19, 2020, 19:30 (GMT+1)
UK Preview screening in 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)
/ Public Premiere / V-A-C Foundation, Venice, IT
Venice International Performance Art Week
November 20, 2020, 14:30/16:15/18:00
–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 to co-create body-based art collectively, despite being obliged to physically distance.
During recent years, I had developed the protagonist-figure of the White Crow for our performance works; someone between a memento mori and a fierce fairytale creature. During lockdown I read the collection of surrealist short stories The Mirror in the Mirror by German writer Michael Ende, and thought of realizing a film in which, as in Ende's book, all episodes have their own protagonists in their private place of isolation, but related to each other through literary leitmotif.
I shared this vision by email 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, in this very moment where we are forced to stay there. 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 an actual as well as emotional limbo. Some found themselves in artistic paralysis or confronted with the prosaic quest to secure a living. As Andrea and I profess the potential of moments of crisis and the trust in change, we encouraged our friends to inhabit these situations artistically and work from there instead of being held back by them.
Some had already started their own projects in response to the lockdown. I asked whether we could include these in the film. Then there were those who had never performed for a camera before, having little technical or editing knowledge. I invited them to use what they had at their disposal. In a process of continuous feedback, I edited their material in line with the film’s poetics, while enhancing the contributions of each artist involved.
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 more savvy in video making, created works that just needed to be placed in the timeline. Others bestowed sound pieces, writings, drawings, as well as 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 together – 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 linking the disparate elements of this story-non-story into a non-linear narrative I worked with the intersections of analogue and digital in creating 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, in the mist of falling and uncertainty.