TERRA NOVA (AmundsenScottOates)


A co-production of OMISSIS Festival of Performing Arts, Gradisca d’Isonzo, IT

June 2012


Photographs by Silvia Profumi | Studio 14 and Aisha Ryannon Pagnes


TERRA NOVA (AmundsenScottOates) takes inspiration from the lives and ventures of the Polar explorers at the beginning of the 20th Century, which VestAndPage studied in their artist-in-residence in Antarctica in January 2012.


The public enters a dark and silent room. During the next 35 minutes, lights gradually turn stronger and the sound of wind raises from zero to maximum.

Pagnes lies inside a transparent bathtub in white, icy liquid. He makes efforts in pulling himself up with a rope on his legs. Stenke is covered by a black coat, only her hands are visible, which tear hair off her head. As her head exits the coat, it is bald. She requests two visitors to help her pulling the rope. They pull it until Pagnes hangs head-over from the ceiling, then they lower it to let him exit. He moves toward a transparent glass container on the wall. Stenke walks the space and falls stiffly and unexpectedly. Some people catch her falling, others don’t. Pagnes takes five visitors one by one to aside him. Watching each other facing a mirror, he asks them to think of the most important person in their life, while cutting a line on his chest. Stenke undresses, inserts her head inside a glass bowl filled with water, raises up and verses the content over herself. With the bowl on her head she sings a folk song about love and death, approaching the audience with antique photographs of people whose faces are no more visible. The glass steams up through the vapour and breath until her face turns nearly invisible. Pagnes presses his bleeding chest onto the wall of the glass container, dressing up in a bride's gown. Stenke opens the glass container and Pagnes, now blindfolded, exits. Both step on a field of ice-cubes, trying a precarious dance on it, slipping, falling, failing, catching each others, until she exits to let the visitors touch her iced bare feet, and Pagnes lies down on the ice with his naked torso. In the meanwhile, light and sound have raised to the maximum. Pagnes stands up from the ice, Stenke guides visitors to touch his naked back's flesh, which is ice-cold. They exit saying "I’m just going outside and may be some time," the famous last words of British Antarctic explorer Lawrence Oates (1880-1912), said to his companions before walking out into a blizzard towards his self sacrifying death during Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova Expedition.

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