ART WEEK | WORKSHOP SERIES
C32performingartworkspace | Live Arts Cultures, Forte Marghera, Venice
When we arrive, the shed is still empty. Some women start crossing the space carrying objects– they enter, find a place, and position themselves.
It is the first time that this space becomes a place, one of the many warehouses of Forte Marghera that in the past served as a scenography storage for the Teatro La Fenice and now instead transforms, almost by chance, into the setting of a collective creative emersion in which the performance students of VestAndPage mingle with those of Jürgen Fritz, for a sharing born as a result from the 10-days residency with their facilitators.
A woman comes pulling a shopping cart, other four with a big styrofoam parallelepiped bodies are covered in words, a suitcase is bound to a branch by a cord while more bodies enter into the articulated and manic depths of the long shed. We do not know what will happen and when, but the invisible marks left by the concentrated looks of the young performance artists gradually create a redolent atmosphere of something that is going to happen, the promise of a human power that will be revealed, skewed and prepared for something that you can already imagine: visceral, dense. There is no hesitation, but self-assurance and confidence. We understand that in these ten days that accompanied them this far, everybody has exceeded a limit, some limit that now is no longer perceived. This appears to us as the humus, the common ground onto which something significant is going to be structured.
We are assisting one of the numerous workshops that are held at the C32 performingartworkspace. This year, due to a well-established collaboration with the VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK, run by VestAndPage (Verena Stenke & Andrea Pagnes), the workshop is organised by Live Arts Cultures in collaboration with Studio Contemporaneo and together with Jürgen Fritz / IPA International Performance Association, aiming to propose creative learning processes in the field of performance art.
The real encounter between the two workshops is in the final evening, trusting in a collective intelligence of an audience desirous of what is to come; a trust most often rewarded.
Unsure of where it began, we witness the unfolding of a reality. We are restless; we enter the warehouse, unsignaled. The energy swells; setting the space involves precise actions. We sit on two chairs. We are kindly invited to break the direction of a unique look and experience a more subjective vision. Smells, sounds, contacts, hassles and poetry like kaleidoscopes. Suddenly, pearls seem to fall from the eyes of a burly guy, shaking a metal bowl with at each drop. Women pour out from the cracks of the building and gather round the rusted-iron shed. A woman waits at the edge of a wire, another one obsessively lights up matches, tossing them into the dark. Someone is strapped to the metal net of a bed. There is one who collects words that describe a look, one who rolls the dice, who sings, who screams, who balances on an invisible line and then falls. There is wax, flour and smoke. There is a standing female urinating inside a bottle. There is the delicate ritual a blindfolded girl dressing. There is a nail scratching the floor. There are rhythms, a silver cape, and everything grows, grows, grows more to bury everyone’s loneliness, cracking the distance of safety that people keep from one another.
We like it, and yet we fire a judgment; our performative approach is completely different. The way to act on the body is diametrically opposed to ours. Here there’s more scarification than conservation, we would say. Actions live of their excess and have little composure. The emotional magma flow directly and without mediation to the audience, while in our work we privilege an already reconstructed dynamic emerging along the process, carrier of the signs of what happened and personal transformation, with more modesty and desire of containment.
This diversity has led us over the years to observe and think about the work of VestAndPage. Curious and almost a little magical, a first exchange of words with Andrea Pagnes. He talks rather inspired, answering almost in precise order to all our thoughts and doubts. Despite the differences that distinguish us, we are captivated by the simple truth with which he journeys through personal history, beliefs about what it means to make performance art, awareness of a strong theatre component denied by the actors and singled out by the contemporary world, a programmatic attitude to reasoning in absence of judgment, the emotional intelligence with which he shows us to see and consider the workshops’ participants. Between one word in German and another in Venetian, he speaks in a language of well thought terms that betray the ears of those who consider a said phrase as an epigraph. He tells us right away that he, artistically, is one half of the duo VestAndPage, just as we always feel as a duo, Penzo + Fiore, in art as in life. Maybe what we like and what attracts us is exactly this: to walk on the dangerous limit of the relationship, which in him is perceived as fundamental and paramount. While the words of Andrea draw awareness and a rare lucidity into our minds, the stories mix with the images already carved into our memories, where Verena Stenke deforms her body with protrusions made of breath, remaining caged by the elasticity of clothes made of stockings. We see her beautiful, young, fresh and at the same time present, courageous, and strong alongside Andrea’s ostentatious warlike physicality.
If we were to use our eyes to cut, cut and cut, to get to the essence of the action, it would not pass unnoticed this way of falling of Verena– so true, honest, risky and free from any caution. It is the synthesis of their approach to a work certainly full of objects, costumes, and physical transformations that is so close to theatre, but at the same time they are firmly determined to go all the way to the very end, something that an actor never would do. This falling onto the ice, almost a topic of her work, is pure surrender to the ground without a single muscle’s opposition, the skull like a soundboard when it crashes to the ground. And everything turns profoundly sincere.
Also sincere is the desire expressed by Andrea – to take a step toward emotion, to move imperceptibly toward the audience, holding out a hand that is not a desire for complacency, but the key to create a connection that vehicles content. The work with the living body itself favours empathy, but especially in contemporary art, we at times embrace the vanity of giving the burden to the public of decoding something that is presented as cryptic. It seems to us that VestAndPage’s urgency of using more and more voice and texts in their performances stands on this ground.
The power in the infinite expression of first hand experiences. You enter a relationship: the invitation to participate in a project, text written for a personal desire, the collaboration and the curatorship originate from here. The VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK was born with this same logic, for the materialisation of all that has been collected during the years of travels, teachings and live performances of Verena and Andrea, true beyond fiction.
+ Interview with VestAndPage about their practical workshops on performance art. By Taipei Artist Village (2012)