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.
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 "familiar as a dream" (London City Nights) such as Antarctica, subterranean cave systems, Patagonia, Kashmir or military enclaves. Stenke and Pagnes usually work alone or with a small team of collaborators and use minimal non-invasive equipment. 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. This approach contains the essential discourse of decolonisation: it is the land that holds us; we never own land. All forms of oppression and abuse on persons, beings, space or objects for art’s sake is to be avoided as all are equal partakers in the co-creation.
Their films are outcomes of broad creative experience and research processes in which they explore so-called “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.
VestAndPage’s works resonate philosophically with the queer and dark ecology and object-oriented ontology by Timothy Morton and the phenomenology of perception and embodied cognition studies by Merleau-Ponty. Working on performance art’s liminal, spectral and ritual nature, in their ongoing “Poetics of Relations” they apply endurance, sublimation and risk-taking with a poetic bodily approach to art practice and a focus on universal human experiences. They consider performance-based filmmaking an artistic practice that serves the body’s capacity to generate knowledge, convey meanings and shape concepts of intimate archiving, with the perceptual acting as a lens on how we view reality and the spectrum of relationships to address the social nature of representation. For them, film can delude space-time, open the unconscious as a resourceful vessel, and reveal processes and relations by linking apparently disconnected persons, objects and happenings.
Their production process involves the recollection of different elements or “shards”: a series of disconnected filmed, non-staged performance actions, poetic texts produced as stream-of-consciousness writing, foley sounds and elaborate musical soundscapes. In assembling them, these shards are placed together organically in the editing process. The new whole that is the film work aims to reveal the existing connections between these previously scattered fragments. Reduced use of digital effects such as dissolve, reverse and layering serves to unveil perceptions of realities that are not feasible in real life but that they consider elemental. Rooted in both film history and the history of performance art, VestAndPage’s aesthetic has been termed as magical realism, surrealist, hyperrealist or psychomagic. It reflects the poetics of masters such as Maya Deren, Sergei Parajanov, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Godfrey Reggio and Werner Herzog.
They also commit to film as a mnemonic archive for testimonial purposes and produce conversations and interviews with inspiring people from the arts, culture and science on existential topics.
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. In 2020, they published their Manifesto on performance-based filmmaking: Poetics of Relations.
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 master classes and have been guest lecturers at art academies worldwide. For STRATA, they sign responsible as artistic directors, producers, writers, performers, and directors.
Aldo Aliprandi Sound
Marianna Andrigo Movement
Marilyn Arsem Performance
Balaustio Costume design
Andreas Bauer Kanabas Classical bass
Anguezomo Mba Bikoro Performance
Giorgia De Santi Performance
daz disley Sound, Lighting Director, Cinematography
Francesca Fini Performance & Digital animation
Nicola Fornoni Performance
La Saúla / La Pocha Nostra Performance
Stephan Knies Violin
Fenia Kotsopoulou Dance, Visuals, Cinematography
Boris Nieslony Performance
Ralf Peters Voice art
Enok Ripley Performance
Sara Simeoni Dance
Marcel Sparmann Performance, Production Assistance
VestAndPage Performance, Directors Producers, Writers
Susanne Weins Voice art
Douglas Quin Sound design, Audio arts
Südwest Presse, "Hochkultur in tiefen Höhlen" (July 2021)