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German artist Verena Stenke (b. 1981) and Venetian-born artist and author Andrea Pagnes (b. 1962) have been working together since 2006 as VestAndPage in performance art, performance-based film, writing, publishing and with temporary artistic community projects. They have been creating live performances, film works, performance visuals, collective performance operas, and poetic writings since over a decade, exploring performance art as phenomena through their collaborative creative practice, as well as through theoretical artistic research and curatorial projects. Their works have been presented in museums, galleries, theatres, cinemas and a variety of sites worldwide. Their writings have been extensively published and translated for international readers.
Between 2010 and 2012 they worked, studied and travelled widely in Antarctica, South America and Asia, where they produced performance cycles and the performance-based film trilogy sin∞fin, and strengthened their international network.
On December 2012, VestAndPage conceived and initiated their live art exhibition project Venice International Performance Art Week. In the Trilogy of the Body, between 2012 and 2016 the project presented historic pioneer works on exhibit in conjunction with live programs of durational performances, showing over 120 international artists and an ongoing educational program. Since 2017, the project in a new format presents the intensive educational platform and live project Co-Creation Live Factory.
Between 2014 and 2017, alongside further annual live performance cycles, VestAndPage produced Plantain, the performance-based feature film on a month-long performance walk from Northern Germany through Poland to the Russian region of Kaliningrad in May/June 2015. The project is based on true historic events of the escape of Stenke's family in the civil exodus from former East Prussia in winter 1945.
In 2020, they published their Manifesto on Performance-Based Filmmaking "Poetics of Relations". In 2021, they are producing and currently filming their performance-based feature documentary on Deep Time, STRATA, in caves of human prehistory.
Since 2006, their writings have been extensively published in books and magazines of contemporary art, among which Performance Research, Flash Art, Studio Research, Art&Education, Research Catalogue, Nexus. Their own publications The Fall of Faust - Considerations on Contemporary Art and Art Action and exhibition catalogues investigate the intimate tissue of creativity and artistic practice, questioning performance art as urgency.
VestAndPage’s art practice is contextual and situation-responsive, conceived psycho-geographically in response to social contexts, natural surroundings, historical sites and architectures. They inquire performance art not just as a medium to express their concerns and ideals, but as an urgency to explore the physical, mental and spiritual bodies through the possibility of crossing the exterior-interior boundary, and to interface with the ephemeral matter of art and existence. In a Poetics of Relations they examine notions of temporalities, memory strata, communication and fragility of the individual and the collective within social and environmental spheres, applying the themes of 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. They are devoted to a poetic approach to experimental, personal filmmaking based on performance art, questioning our perception of reality, and how we process and store information. For VestAndPage, film can function as a kind of wormhole, where space-time deludes and the process reveals itself by linking between apparently disconnected performative actions.
Their collaborative practice has roots in contemporary visual and conceptual art, classical, oriental and social theatre, philosophy, anthropology, anthro-poetics and political science, as well as in the study of rites, myths and religions, particularly Sufism, alchemy as well as the ancient Greek and Christian iconology, to analyse the significance of a subject’s matter within the culture that produces it. Working with material from a personal and genetic library accessed through insightful thinking and spiritual practices, their works are accessible by a wide audience, allowing viewers to address realistic contents through fresh iconography in an otherworldly surrounding.
Their durational performances are distinguished by actions and sensorial details that undermine the conventional and put the elements of logic into question. These performances have durations of 24 hours (Fear vs Love vs Fear), five consecutive days and nights (Without Tuition or Restraint), or can be month-long (Plantain). Their performance cycles (Balada Corporal, 2010/11; Panta Rhei, 2012; Thou Twin of Slumber, 2013; Dyad, 2014/15; Aegis, 2016/17; Home ongoing) and film works (sin∞fin, 2010-2012; Plantain, 2018, STRATA; in production) are developed consecutively and in situ. The process of making unfolds as if in absence of temporality, as if the concept of time itself had collapsed to create a setting in which the present is repeated or the past is recalled. These works face philosophical, social and political issues from multiple perspectives, for example the belief and unbelief. While encompassing a range of subtly different concepts, they primarily express VestAndPage’s view on reality while adding or revealing poetic elements as a rebellion against the exercise of power and discrimination among human beings.
German artist Verena Stenke –prior to her artistic, curatorial and publishing activities with VestAndPage– studied Visual Arts and holds qualifications as Special FX Make-Up and Mask Artist. She is trained in Social and Oriental Theatre, contemporary dance and martial arts, and is a practitioner of Yoga. Venetian-born artist and writer Andrea Pagnes holds degrees in Philosophy and Modern Literature, certificates in Museology and Art Critic, diplomas in Creative Writing and as actor and operator of Social Theatre. He has worked as an independent curator, painter, glass sculptor, writer, and as artist and coordinator at several projects of the Venice Biennale. Stenke and Pagnes met in Berlin in 2006, began their collaboration working and travelling together as VestAndPage, and are married.
Stenke and Pagnes have received the following recognitions:
Best Experimental Film Award (Pixelgarage Award of Excellence, 2021), Project Grant #TakeAction by Fonds Daku and the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (2021), Project Grant #TakeCare by Fonds Daku and the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (2020), Best Film Award (Berlin Independent Film Festival, Plantain, 2018); Project Grant by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (2015); International Residency Grant by the National Antarctic Direction of Argentina Cultural Program (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).
Verena Stenke (VestAndPage)