Verena Stenke, Andrea Pagnes, VestAndPage

Original images: Fenia Kotsopoulou 2021

Verena Stenke VestAndPage Bald Head Girl Skull Thanatos
VestAndPage, Verena Stenke, Andrea Pagnes, Venice

Original image: Giulio Boehm 2012

Since 2006, German artist Verena Stenke and Venetian-born artist and writer Andrea Pagnes have been working together as VestAndPage internationally in performance art, performance-based film, writing, publishing and temporary artistic community projects. For over a decade, VestAndPage have been exploring performance art and filmmaking as phenomena of "thin places" through their collaborative creative practice, artistic research and curatorial projects. They have produced body-based art and films among others under Antarctic glaciers, at the Himalayan foothills, in the vastness of Tierra del Fuego, in abandoned factories, military enclaves, or inside the dark depths of prehistoric caves systems. Their site-responsive and psychogeographical works move between embodiment and research, the unseen and the unforeseen, the oppressed and unspoken, the forgotten and the repressed. Their works have been presented at various sites and in theatres, museums, galleries and cinemas worldwide. They are the founders and directors of the Venice International Performance Art Week, and their research and poetic writings have been extensively published and translated for international readers. They share their methodology and mentoring on collaborative performance and filmmaking in co-creation master classes and have been guest lecturers at art academies worldwide.

VestAndPage's art practice is contextual and situation-responsive, conceived psychogeographically in response to natural surroundings, social contexts, historical sites and architectures. They are focused on the liminal, spectral and ritual nature of performance art, often in “thin places”: locations-in-between, where the veil between different temporalities, occurrences and stories is porous. To perform in these thresholds where the visible blends with the invisible, they have developed a psychogeographical method to activate memory and uncover layers of information and imagery stored in the human body, psyche, spirit, and environment.  They inquire about performance art as an urgency to explore the physical, mental and spiritual bodies, where moments of crisis see the crossing of boundaries by the break with norms and presumed orders, to interface with the ephemeral matter of art and existence.

In an ongoing 'Poetics of Relations', they move into an encounter with the other. They examine threshold stages of instability, time, memory, communication and the fragility of the individual and the collective within social and environmental spheres. In an artistic journey from the inner onto the outside, the spiritual onto the physical, and the invisible onto the visible, they apply trust in change, endurance, union, pain sublimation and risk-taking with a poetic bodily approach to art practice and a focus on universal human experiences. Their collaborative practice has roots in Applied/Integrative and Oriental theatre, literature, philosophy, political sciences, and visual and conceptual art. VestAndPage's works allow viewers to address realistic content through fresh iconography in an otherworldly surrounding by presenting material from a personal and genetic library accessed through insightful thinking and spiritual practices.

 

VestAndPage have been devoted to experimental performance-based filmmaking through which they examine the evolution from original documentation of performative acts toward complexly contextual, non-linear storytelling. They produce their film works on-site as direct and visceral performances, which are never rehearsed or staged and happen in response to often extreme environments. In a constant search through a reflexive mode for new images of interior landscapes, they consider the world their studio and host. They do not go to a place to tell a story; they go to a place to find its story. For VestAndPage, film can delude space-time, open the unconscious as a creative vessel, and reveal processes and relations by linking apparently disconnected persons, things and happenings. Since 2010, they have produced three feature-length films, a silent film, a trilogy of shorts, two shorts and numerous interview series and art videos.

VestAndPage's theoretical and poetic writings have been extensively published in books and magazines of contemporary art, including Performance ResearchFlash Art, Studio ResearchArt&Education, Research Catalogue, Journal of Embodied Research (JER), Ephemera Journal, Revista ExperimentaRepertório LivreNexus. Their publications by VestAndPage press investigate the intimate tissue of creativity and artistic practice, questioning performance art as urgency.

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Between 2010 and 2012, Stenke and Pagnes worked and studied in Antarctica, South America and Asia. They produced performance cycles and the performance-based film trilogy sin∞fin and strengthened their international network.

Since December 2012, VestAndPage have been curating their live art exhibition project VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK. Between 2012 and 2016, it showcased in the Trilogy of the Body historic pioneer works on exhibit in conjunction with live programs of durational performances, presenting over 120 international artists and an ongoing educational program. Since 2017, they present Co-Creation Live Factory, an international educational platform with a residential and collaborative nature.

Between 2014 and 2018, alongside further annual live performance cycles, VestAndPage produced Plantain, the award-winning feature-length film based on the month-long performance walk from Northern Germany through Poland to the Russian region of Kaliningrad. The project is based on actual historical events of the escape of Stenke's family in the civil exodus from former East Prussia in winter 1945.

Since 2019, they have been presenting their performance text on tuberculosis and the body as a home of pathogens: 1 9 Monologue.

In 2020, they published their manifesto on performance-based filmmaking: Poetics of Relations.

Since 2020, alongside further performance and short film creations, they are presenting momentum, a mnemonic archive for testimonial purposes presenting conversations with inspiring people from the arts, culture and science on existential topics.

Since 2021, they are producing the performance-based feature STRATA, a film and research project on Deep Time and layers of memory in human history and the geological. In prehistoric caves of the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the Swabian Jura and through international collaborations and interdisciplinary processes, science meets performance art, theatre, dance, visual art, and music.

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German artist Verena Stenke – before her artistic, curatorial and editorial activities with VestAndPage – studied Fine arts, Applied and Oriental Theatre, and holds qualifications as a Special FX makeup artist and mask maker. She is a yoga practitioner and trained in martial arts, contemporary dance, and athletics. Venetian-born artist and writer Andrea Pagnes holds degrees in philosophy and modern literature, certificates in museology and art criticism, diplomas in creative writing and as an actor and operator of Applied Theatre. He is a certified practitioner of Transpersonal Rebirthing, and has worked as an artistic director, independent curator, glass sculptor, writer, and an artist and coordinator at several Venice Biennale projects. Stenke and Pagnes met in Berlin in 2006, live and work together as VestAndPage, and are married.

 

Stenke and Pagnes have received the following recognitions:

• Research Grants #TakeCare and #TakeHeart by Fonds Darstellende Künste with funds from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (2020/2021/2022)

• Individual Seal of Recognition: Golden Pear of Excellence and Friendship (Cine+Perfo Film Festival, 2022)

• Finalist Best Experimental Short Film (Boden International Film Festival, 2021)

• Best Experimental Film Award (Pixelgarage Award of Excellence, 2021)

• Project Grant #TakeAction by Fonds Darstellende Künste with funds from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (2021)

• Best Film Award (Berlin Independent Film Festival, 2018)

• Project Grant by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (2015)

• International Residency Grant by the National Antarctic Direction of Argentina (2012)

• International Residence Grant by AiR Taipei (2012)

• Treviglio Video Poetry Prize (2011)

• Culture Prize of the City of Nassau (2011)

• Project Grant by the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation (2010)

• Storie Literary Prize (A. Pagnes, 2008)

• ArtKontakt Prize (2007)

• Windsor&Newton Millennium Painting Award (A. Pagnes, 2000)

• Robert Schuman Silver Medal for European Unity (A. Pagnes, 1990).

VestAndPage have exhibited and performed among others at:

Correr Museum/Thetis Foundation, Venice; Museum der Bildenden Künste, Leipzig; Museo de Arte Tigre, CCEBA, Buenos Aires; Museo Universitario del Chopo/Ex Teresa Arte Actual/Alumnos47 Foundation, Mexico City; Berliner Kunsthalle/Maschinenhaus Theater/Ballhaus Ost/Kino Babylon, Berlin; National Art Gallery of Albania, Tirana; Kosovo National Art Gallery, Pristine; National Gallery of Arts, Sopot; Venetiaanse Gaanderijen, Ostend; Student Cultural Centre, Belgrade; UKK, Uppsala; Taidehalli, Helsinki; Sculpture Quadrennial Riga; Royal Academy of the Arts, Copenhagen; Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdam; Solyanka Gallery, Moscow; CANTE, San Louis Potosì; Centro Cultural FIESP - Ruth Cardoso, Sao Paulo; Homero Massena Gallery, Vitoria; Museo de Arte Moderno, Santo Domingo; MACC, Celarg Foundation, Museo Alejandro Otero, Caracas; Universidad Teatro de Chile, Santiago de Chile; Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Valdivia; Sarai Centre, New Delhi; Goodman Arts Centre, Singapore; University Art Center, Chang Mai; 798 Art District, Beijing; Taipei Artist Village, Taipei; Seoul Art Space, Seoul; Alt, Istanbul; Museu José Maloha, Caldas da Rainha; VIVO Media Arts Centre, Vancouver; Boston Center for the Arts, Boston; Columbia University - Macy Gallery, New York; Schlachthaus Theater, Bern; PVA Centre for Contemporary Art, Aberdeen; Arnolfini, Bristol; London Art Fair.

 

VestAndPage collaborate with cultural institutions, theatre companies and organisations in education, production, and as tutors/guest teachers/ advisors presenting lectures and methodological Intensive Workshops and Classes, among others at:

RCA Royal Academy of Arts London; SAIC School of the Arts Institute Chicago; NYU Steinhardt; ArtEZ Master's Theatre Practices Arnhem; Norwegian Theatre Academy; University of Exeter;  TeaK Theatre Academy Helsinki; Albanian University of Arts; Venice Academy of Fine Arts;  European University of Cyprus; Athens Schools of Fine Arts;  Gray's School of Art Aberdeen;  Lingnan University Hong Kong; UNEARTE Caracas; Universidad Austral de Valdivia; Hong Kong Centre for Community Cultural Development; Artscape Toronto; Seoul Art Space; School for Curatorial Studies Venice; SALT Galata Istanbul; BITEF Theatre, Instituto Italiano di Cultura Belgrade; Deutsches Institut Florence; Goethe Institute Thessaloniki; Fabrica Braco de Prata Lisbon.

VestAndPage examine universal human experiences through the prism of extreme environments: taking the familiar and staging it within in an epic, alien landscape; the result being a heightened reality: both entirely surreal and as familiar as a dream.

David C James, London City Nights

VestAndPage are able to create images that are not only intense and touching but in the best sense: new.

Dr Ralf Peters

For VestAndPage, performance is also the sacred struggle for the freedom of human beings, each individual.

Dr Bernhard Stumpfhaus, Hanix

VestAndPage don't work at heights. Vertigo comes from elsewhere.

Santiago Cao, Performances in Closed Spaces as Shared Intimacy

VestAndPage visit a limit that runs along with the sleep and nearby the dying, along with remembering and next to oblivion. They are not declaring the limit between them, they are dancing on it. We dance together with them.

Francesco Kiais, G.A.P. Gathering Around Performance

Stenke and Pagnes work on complex themes such as abuse, contamination, death, solitude, fragility, exclusion and rejection. Verena and Andrea of the sensitive bodies are searching for other sentients between those that observe them acting.

Jessica Berlanga Taylor, Proyecto Liquido

 

VestAndPage challenged ideas about what it means to be in a body and conjured romantic notions of what can be experienced beyond the physical realm.

Sandrine Schaefer, The Present Tense

 

Andrea Pagnes and Verena Stenke are here to tell us that real communication cannot be replaced by mechanical, mediated actions which have no relevance because they do not convey anything, and the need to exist as an individual willing to open up and exorcise all fears is more acute than ever in the twenty-first century, in spite of all the cultivated illusion of the cocooned global village.

Dana Altman, Art & Multiplicity