Andrea Pagnes

"You have to make art stronger than life, so people can feel it." —Tehching Hsieh
Germany, Italy (residence), Italy (citizenship) °1962
affiliation: VestAndPage; Venice International Performance Art Week

Venetian born Andrea Pagnes holds degree in Modern Literature and Philosophy, and certificates of high studies in Museology, Art Criticism, and Creative Writings. He translated Jurassic Park into Italian, published prose works, art essays, and as journalist founded two cultural magazines. Artistic director of a Murano glass factory during the 90s, he then obtained the diploma of Social Theatre actor and scriptwriter, operating with differently abled people, psychic patients, prisoners, former drug addicts and street kids. This experience forged his actual approach to arts, focusing on the limits of personal conflicts, individual and social responsabilities. Awarded with the UE Robert Schuman Silver Medal (1990), the Millennium Painting Award in representation of his own country (2000), and the literary prize Storie (2009), his paintings, sculptures and installations have been exhibited internationally and are present in several collections. As curator, he also coordinated collateral art projects for several Venice Biennales from 1993 to 2009, and assisted senior artists such as Yoko Ono and Joseph Kosuth.

Since 2006 he has been collaborating with German artist Verena Stenke as VestAndPage primarily in body based live art performances, investigating private and social spheres, anthroposophy and the poetics of relations through fragility, transformation, vertigo, risk-taking, liminality, insight, infection, rejection and the idea of union.

Being present in galleries, museums, biennials, theatres and festivals worldwide, they also give lectures and workshops on performance art theory and praxis. They conceived and curate the biennial Live art exhibition project Venice International Performance Art Week, and the artist-run initiative Fragile performance chain journey . Their movie trilogy sin∞fin  is an experiment combining performance art with filmmaking. The book The Fall of Faust - Considerations on Contemporary Art and Art Action (2010), and the most recent essays written by Pagnes are addressed to decode the hidden fabric of the artistic process, with particular reference to performance art.


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  • VestAndPage (Andrea Pagnes & Verena Stenke) (04/01/2006)
    Publication: Publication, VestAndPage, artist(s)/author(s): VestAndPage (Verena Stenke, Andrea Pagnes), Andrea Pagnes
    German artist Verena Stenke and Venetian artist and writer Andrea Pagnes have been working together since 2006, generating art in the mediums of live performance, filmmaking and writing, and as independent curators. Their practice is contextual, process-led, situation-responsive and conceived psycho-geographically in response to natural surroundings, social contexts, historical sites or architecture, hence unrepeatable and subdue to the given conditions. In a poetics of relations it examines notions of perception, reality, communication, fragility and failure of the individual and the collective within different social or environmental spheres. Exploring what, as human beings, we still have to offer, VestAndPage question our existence within a humanity characterized by social exclusion and global atrocities. Demanding themselves to inspire others and animated by a nomadic, confrontational spirit, they apply the themes of acceptance, resistance, endurance and union with a poetic bodily approach to art practice. They have presented their productions in Europe, US, Asia, South America, as well as giving workshops, lectures and seminars on their methodology and research in institutions worldwide. Their book "The Fall of Faust - Considerations on Contemporary Art and Art Action" has been published by VestAndPage press (Florence, 2010).
  • VestAndPage selected performances and works (2006-2015) (01/01/2015)
    Publication: Catalogue, VestAndPage, artist(s)/author(s): VestAndPage (Verena Stenke, Andrea Pagnes), Andrea Pagnes
    Selection of VestAndPage performances and works (2006-2015).
    Art object: Movie, VestAndPage, artist(s)/author(s): VestAndPage (Verena Stenke, Andrea Pagnes), Andrea Pagnes
    "sin∞fin The Movie" is a Performance Hybrid Film Project trilogy. It outlines concept and realization process of VestAndPage's recent movie based on Performance art. To realize the trilogy, the artist couple has roamed far and wide through Antarctica, Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, India and Kashmir, diving into the absurdness of the quotidian. They perceived and defined spheres and sanctums: creations, unions, incorporations, rejections, collisions, invasions, infections and transformations of inner, private, social and universal spheres. Installations and performances were developed on site, shaping the three episodes of "sin∞fin The Movie" as such: #1"Performances at the End of the World" (Chilean Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego); #2 "Performances at the Holy Centre" (North India, Delhi and Kashmir); #3 "Performances at the Core of the Looking-Glass" (Peninsula Antarctica). "sin∞fin The Movie" is a film on the ephemeral form of Performance art, outside any filmic genre. It is an art project set between reality and vision, to stimulate and generate reflection on our common, conflictive contemporary situation. Being based on live performances, the two protagonists are primarily themselves: there is no acting in their actions, that appear artistic, but are based on real life. And still "sin∞fin The Movie" is not a documentary, as the single acts are finally puzzled together organically, to generate a new story that enfolds through the dynamics that have been created instead of through imposed intentions. The film recalls the rules of Performance art also in its cinematic technique: all is based on authenticity. There is no script or storyboard, the artists’ actions evolve in direct response to the surroundings in which they find themselves, and are plan-able only up to a certain degree. These single moments shape an organic cycle with an autonomous story, to be read by each viewer in a personal way. The artists reciprocally record their actions, or leave it to a tripod to statically record what happens. The set is given by the chosen venue with its natural light. The camera’s eye sees what a possible spectator of the action would see. No zooms, close-ups or shifting angles are used. The editing is reduced to basic cuts with a few means of overlapping, leaving the actions in their original length as much as possible. The lack of color or contrast adjustments, and the use of natural sound contribute to making the movie the most performative also in its cinematic aspects. VestAndPage research and experiment on the ridge of the ephemeral.The entire methodology of the "sin∞fin The Movie" project is subdue to process, shifting perspectives and finally life.
  • PLANTAIN (01/01/2016)
    Art object: Movie, VestAndPage, artist(s)/author(s): VestAndPage (Verena Stenke, Andrea Pagnes), Andrea Pagnes
    Long-term performance and artfilm Currently in post-production Performance: May 8th to June 15th, 2015 Press reviews: Kunstforum | Heilbronner Stimme | Performance Is Alive | Lavanderia Young A VestAndPage production, 2015-16 On behalf of the Kulturzentrum Ostpreußen, Ellingen. Funded by the German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. Artistic collaboration: Douglas Quin (Soundscape), Stephan Knies (Violin), Andreas Bauer (Basso profundo). Collaboration: Heart of the City Bureau, Kaliningrad; Dom Samok Association, Chernyakhovsk. TO REMEMBER IS LIKEWISE DANCING WITH THE MIND BETWEEN MYTH MAKING, TRUTH AND FORGETFULNESS. From May 8th, 2015 on - marking the end of World War II in Europe in its 70th anniversary - German-Italian artist duo VestAndPage (Verena Stenke & Andrea Pagnes) walked the path of war exodus that Stenke’s ancestors went 70 years before, from East Prussia to Northern Germany, this time in the opposite direction: From Hemmingstedt, Northern Germany, to Insterburg/Chernyakhovsk (RU). The plant plantain (German: Spitzwegerich) has been used as a signpost in times when there were no paved roads, as it grows because of its glutinous seeds where someone or something had already gone before. Hence this geophysical and anthropoetic project takes a personal story of the past civilian war displacement from East Prussia as a base for performatic reflection on the complexities of identities and memories of today. Through a process of identification within historical and geophysical emancipation, poetry of relations and memory relics. The project builds on a long durational performance walk covering a distance of about 500 miles. It aims to investigate artistically themes such as: recollection - forgetfulness, roots - displacement, loss, endurance, lasting and emotional facts. The walk has been entirely documented and rendered through an artfilm assembling art actions, dialogues, texts, relics, found objects, installations, soundscapes, images and videos. Along the itinerary, outsiders' remembrance authority played a determinant role in the process of gathering material for the recordings, to revisit fragments of history, which have been left behind: invisible threads, transformative evidences that connect past to present. The result turns into a sequence of moving images scanned through the lens of a social and geophysical perspective. Stenke's grandmother fled upon the evacuation of East Prussia in winter 1945 in the civil exodus along the Baltic Sea to Northern Germany, over 500 miles that she would never go back. Later, the family was moved to southern Germany, where Verena was born. As a young adult she only knew that her grandparents "fled during the war" and "came from the north". There had never been a dialogue about the war or what it meant for the life of each single member of the family and the entire family. As artists, it became necessary to find ways to connect spaces, lapses and gaps, might it be through fact or fiction. This includes the urgency of recalling what has been left unsaid, to puzzle pieces back together, to dig in the dust, to imagine possible worlds and to map impossible ones, to open closed boxes and to reveal what resides inside. We listen to memories and opinions, remembering that all has been already edited by time and the mind, resulting little more than insects of time, skewed and prepared, doubting if it will be ever possible to keep a collective memory of those times accurate and accountable. Nevertheless we consider artistic memory work and poetic research not only of socio-historical and individual importance, but rather a collective responsibility to counter the silence, repression and oblivion – the ones of the past and the ones of the present. As part of the transformational process, we went to pick up remains, details of the everyday, potential vessels of history, and re-frame them through a process of equally fragmented time. Through interpersonal communication and direct exchange of information that this project intends to facilitate, we can grow as individuals and enliven cultures in a global context, learning to see current events through the eyes of Walter Benjamin’s "Angel of History." As for the project's process and result, while the actual live performance is physically strictly linear in time and space, the film work uncloaks the process by finding links between actions that occurred apparently disconnected – film here functions as a worm-whole, where space-time deludes in trivial boundaries. If the live performance is likewise an alchemical process, film is here a metaphysical attempt, and by combining live performance with filmmaking artistically an explosive theory of perception is being devised. Plantain is an opportunity to engage with the recent past while focusing on the issue of the displaced - replaced - in-place body of today, through an investigation into how past and present speak to and through our bodies facing ethical, social and existential challenges.
  • MayDay - Fragile Limits - In Situ (01/01/2015)
    Event: Workshop, VestAndPage, artist(s)/author(s): VestAndPage (Verena Stenke, Andrea Pagnes), Andrea Pagnes
    The intensive VestAndPage workshops follow the artist duo's unique collaborative method through the process of making a performative piece. Through practical exercises, participants will be provided with the means to conceive, develop and realise their own performance piece. Through reflecting on the use of the body as an artistic tool, the workshops focus on introspection as a way to develop authentic modes of expression and artistic action. The workshops offer insight into the framework of process-led and conceptual art practice, with the aim to provide basis for future artistic material. Therefore, as well as for gaining further understanding of VestAndPage’s collaborative art practice, participants develop a heightened awareness of body, mind and spirit, with the means to stimulate artistic personal action though inner sensitivity. VestAndPage workshops fund on three pillars: _FRAGILE LIMITS Through methodology aimed at understanding prevailing behavioral patterns as well as the individual and social responsibilities of art, participants develop new ways of communicating and overcoming of fears of our conflicting contemporary conditions. Fragile Limits is an investigation of the human body through its own reading and the concept of the "Three Bodies": Body-Body, Mind-Body, Psyche-Body. The bodies and their ways of expression; the bodies in interaction with the others and within a given reality; interaction with auxiliary tools/media. A constant fragility of every achieved moment, evolution and transformation serves as a base for artistic creation. Fragile Limits investigates existential human conflicts, as well as the often hidden but existing relationships between Man and his discomforts, frustrations, griefs and diseases (physical - mental - spiritual). More than a technical one, it is an aesthetic control and a manipulation of space (holy but empty space at the same time) that guides the participants through creative and sensitive imagery and body language, into an open confrontation with themselves. "An artist primarily recognizes him/herself as a tool of his/her own work, improving knowledge and investigating the cutting-edge existing between “what I want to do and what someone wants to do of/about me.” ~ VestAndPage _IN SITU Through a processual methodology producing site-responsive performative pieces, participants are provided in practical exercises with the means to exercise contextual, process-led and situation-responsive performance art practice. This workshop is conceived to develop body-based performance work, which psycho-geographically responds to natural surroundings, social contexts, historical sites or architecture. In Situ questions the individual and the collective within social or environmental spheres, and works with relations and awareness. "Taking the familiar and staging it within epic, alien or unimaginable landscapes or architectures, the result is a heightened reality: both entirely surreal and as familiar as a dream. Eventually, it becomes more a matter of choosing ‘where’ to do it, and not ‘what’ to do. … Our duty is to listen, to welcome the environments influences. With respect to the history, uniqueness and powerful configuration of any location and situation, we listen in order to find ways of expressions not conceived or thought of a priori; stories that places and situations tell to and through us beyond their mere appearance. To be inspired by the surrounding, and to translate what we hear, freed from description or intent." ~ VestAndPage _MAYDAY MayDay is an intense 7- to 8-days workshop based on daily 24-hour conditions (or focuses). The practical workshop exercises are framed within these daily focuses. MayDay, with its extended time and durational tasks, allows the participants to enter into a concentrated process of artistic and personal research. The common grounds of investigation change daily, and MayDay follows the traces of our cultural, spiritual, corporal mutations and conflicts. The participants are being led out of (pre-)configured spaces, and invited to enter and encounter each other in real, virtual and imaginary spaces. Within these exhibition/production spaces of the individual, private/social and hybrid bodies, the full space of body experience happen as a 'melting pot', a cosmogony, that is both analogical and digital: le lieu d’habitude of our daily life. "Tired of looking at things from an usual and obsolete perspective, with few friends, full of memories and remembrances, with a no-limits imagination, pathological, perverted, deprived, deviant, surreal, overwhelmed and overruled by daily prosaic worries and ordinary thoughts, being still beautiful, in a constant journey towards new productions, slowly moving to an end, living into an irreversible crisis, always clutched by doubts, sometimes radiant, other times miserable, being stuck for an answer, when where is a nowhere or somewhere else, with at least a hope in our hearts- looking at a feeble response, our fragile constituent limits- we invite people to gather those left things they really care - to share them with us and the others." ~ VestAndPage The facilitators lead exercises on a range of performance techniques and approaches, which blur the boundaries between visual art, live art, writing and contemporary performance practices: - Working solo and as a group; - Creating intimate solo performance material; - Devising and improvisation techniques; - Actions/rules/chance-based techniques; - Objects and actions in space as performance; - Developing quality of presence; - Confidence in using the physical self as a vehicle for meaning in performance; - Audience-performer relationships – levels and modes of interaction; - Exploring the role of time and pattern – e.g. duration, endurance, speed, and repetition. - Working towards touching point zero in judgment and intention, heightening perception, introspection, to then rebuild an authenticity-based expression, for finally transforming visions and ideas into a concrete artistic action. - Taking distance from being virtuous by establishing, evaluating, and energizing the personal action in se. - Freeing oneself from common behavioral patterns so as to create new ways of encountering, collaborating and living. - Investigating personal and collective social responsibility through artistic acts. - Overcoming the fragile constituent limits, may they be based on physicality, fears or social patterns. - Touching and strengthening the most human inner sensors in order to activate personal and universal memories, for using as germinal matter for future artistic substance. - Entering a state of heightened awareness and perception, in order to conceive out-of-the-ordinary artistic visions, being in first instance process-led. Actions and exercises are innovative and inspired by Dynamic Creative Breathing, Social Theater, Living Theater, Grotowski, Barba, Leclerc, Oriental Theatre and Mysticism, Martial Arts, Contemporary Dance, Authenticity, Inner Library, Liminality, Breath, Archetypes, Rituality, Memory activation, Object work, Time-Duration-Rhythm, Voice/Sound, Emotional Atmosphere, Inter-activity, Group dynamics, Macro- and Microspherology. Verena Stenke and Andrea Pagnes are experienced workshop facilitators for students, art professionals of different backgrounds and non-art participants, either normally endowed or differently abled, of any age. They have been invited to hold practical workshops, research lectures and teachings in institutions worldwide such as Centre for Community Cultural Development (Hong Kong), Museo Universitario del Chopo (Mexico City), Universidad Nacional de las Arte Experimental (Caracas), Taipei Artist Village (Taipei), SAIC School of the Arts Institute (Chicago), NYU Steinhardt School of Culture (Venice/New York), School for Curatorial Studies (Venice), Seoul Art Space (Seoul), EMBA Escuela Carlos Morel (Buenos Aires), FADO Performance Art Centre (Toronto), Grace Exhibition Space (New York), Dfbrl8r Gallery (Chicago), TeaK Theater Academy (Helsinki), The Substation Theater (Singapore), Albanian University of Arts (Tirana), BITEF Theater (Belgrade), Theater Academy Isole Comprese (Florence), Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia (Venice), Universidad Austral (Valdivia, Chile), Alumnos47 Foundation (Mexico City), Open Space Gallery (Victoria B.C.), Deutsches Institut (Florence), ]performance s p a c e [ (London), KARST Gallery (Plymouth), IPA International Performance Association (Istanbul) and others. The text "MayDay: VestAndPage Workshop Concept, Theory and Practice" published in: "How We Teach Performance Art: University Courses and Workshop Syllabus", Edited by Valentin Torrens. Outskirts Press, July 2014, is downloadable as pdf at the following link:
  • The Fall of Faust - Consideration on Contemporary Art and Art Action (07/07/2010)
    Publication: Book, VestAndPage press, artist(s)/author(s): Andrea Pagnes
    The Fall of Faust - Considerations on Contemporary Art and Art Action By Andrea Pagnes Introduction by Wolf-Gunther Thiel, Preface by Dana Altman, Foreword and Postface by Vedran Vucic VestAndPage press, July 2010 Hardcover, pp. 208, 20 x 13 cm ISBN 978-88-90516-0-8 What distinguishes Pagnes and Stenke from other artists is that besides their constant practice which has taken them in major art centers around the world, they are also interested in the theoretical aspects of communication, in decoding the hidden fabric of art and of artistic activity. The current book, with its two sections, one devoted to theoretical aspects (written by Andrea Pagnes) and a second one devoted to artistic practice (written by Andrea Pagnes and Verena Stenke) coming as a result of the experience of VestAndPage, extensive touring, workshops and teaching, shows us that it is important to be not only a practicing entity of this form of art, but also to attempt a deeper understanding of the art phenomenon in general, which has undergone uncountable changes in both definition and concrete aspects in recent years. Being performers is just one of the facets of the art activity of VestAndPage, and it represents a translation of their theoretical armature. (Dana Altman, New York, 2010)
  • Venice International Performance Art Week (08/12/2012)
    Event: Event, VestAndPage, artist(s)/author(s): VestAndPage (Verena Stenke, Andrea Pagnes), Andrea Pagnes
    The VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK is the independent on-going biennial live art exhibition project conceived, initiated and curated by artist duo VestAndPage (Andrea Pagnes & Verena Stenke), and co-organized by Studio Contemporaneo non-profit cultural association, WeExhibit, Venice Open Gates and GAA Foundation, which hosts the event in its premises. The project aims to promote the practices of performance art on a local, national and international scale, with an event exclusively dedicated to them, and the related educational, formative workshop activities organized along the year, both in Venice (in cooperation with Live Arts Culture cultural association, Venice), and abroad (in cooperation with the hosting local cultural institutions). The event takes place every two years in the month of December in the city of Venice (Italy). In respect of the ethical principle of trans-national cultural collaboration, since its first edition (2012), the VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK has become a recognized platform where the propositive dialogue and the open confrontation among different cultures and artistic expressions could flourish. The core of its mission is, in fact, to strengthen the importance of the concepts of mobility, art nomadism and temporary community; to offer moments of fruitful encounters and exchange to lay the foundations for future professional opportunities for artists and cultural operators; and, finally, paying attention to the creation of a broader audience for performance art. Being a gathering reunion among artists and people "who looked for the pearls in the rivers of human civilizations to came to share what they found" (Lee Wen), the event works also as a think tank for outlining conceptual visions which de-clearly overcome imposed and external human conditioning, generating further propositive reflection on topics such as poetic and civil sovereignty, the whole and the ineffable, time, space and existence. For its initial phase, the VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK has been shaped in form of a trilogy: “Hybrid Body - Poetic Body” (2012); “Ritual Body - Political Body” (2014); “Organic Body - Fragile Body” (2016). Each of the three editions consists of an exhibition displaying important historical performance art pioneers’ works and documentation, alongside the presentation of live art performances by contemporary internationally established and emerging performance artists. The event program is structured as such: daily morning talks held by the participating artists, associated curators and cultural operators open to public; series of durational performances along the afternoons; and shorter performances slots in the evenings. A “Fringe” section is dedicated to the youngest generation of upcoming and emerging artists’ live works. In such context, the urgency of exhibiting the works of pioneers of this art praxis, alongside the most avantgarde contemporary live proposals, reflect VestAndPage artistic research on the field and their curatorial choice to trace a continuity within this specific thus interdisciplinary art form from past to present. At the same time, to highlight previous valuable experiences, which grounded the art of performance in the course of art history and that continue to maintain a strong sense of actuality that deserves to be remembered without declared appositive cultural intention, is as well as due for the necessity to pay tribute to art masterpiece tools telling of social and individual awakening, which still resonate in the work of the new generations. The VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK is a free admission, non profit, non funded, and non commercial cultural event, sustained by the cultural contribution of prestigious institutions, event-associated curators, and the logistics in kind support of donors, philanthropists and Venetian enterprises such as Concave and Riviera. For each event edition, the VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK and VestAndPage press publish limited edition post-event catalogues (hard cover) documenting the performances and exhibition, with a selection of essays on performance art related issues by international scholars.
  • Venice International Performance Art Week 2012, "Hybrid Body - Poetic Body" (09/12/2014)
    Publication: Catalogue, VestAndPage press, artist(s)/author(s): VestAndPage (Verena Stenke, Andrea Pagnes), Andrea Pagnes
    1st Venice International Performance Art Week 2012 "Hybrid Body - Poetic Body" With documentation of the works presented at the 1st VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK 2012: Yoko Ono, VALIE EXPORT, Hermann Nitsch, Jan Fabre, Ilija Šoškić, Boris Nieslony, Jill Orr, Lee Wen, Gonzalo Rabanal, Helena Goldwater, Manuel Vason, Joseph Ravens, Suka Off, Snežana Golubović, Jason Lim, Prem Sarjo, Nelda Ramos, Shima, BBB Johannes Deimling, VestAndPage, Santiago Cao, Francesca Fini, Francesco Kiàis, Wanda Moretti | Il Posto, Gabriela Alonso, Alperoa, Andrea Morucchio, Macarena Perich Rosas, Marcus Vinicius, Weeks & Whitford, Zierle & Carter, David Dalla Venezia. ESSAYS: Bojana Kunst, "Impossible becomes possible"; Dana Altman, "Body Landscapes"; Andrea Pagnes, "Considering the Nature of the Image and its Performativity"; Francesco Kiais, "Unstable Harmonies or On Hybridization of God"; Gabriela Alonso, "The Bodies as Living Archives"; Richard Martel, "Art, Performativity, Plasticity, Language: Access Codes"; Daniela Beltrani, "Uncovering Poiesis in Performance Art". The first edition of the VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK “Hybrid Body – Poetic Body” took place in December 2012 at Palazzo Bembo. The live art exhibition project dedicated to contemporary performance art showcased in its first edition works of over 30 international performance artists from around the globe. Pioneers of this art discipline exhibited alongside established and emerging artists, reflecting influences and current tendencies in the field. The project consisted of a vibrant program of live performances, installations, photographic and video documentation, conferences, daily round tables talks and meetings with the participating artists, researchers and curators. The communication that can be triggered between artists and the audience is an essential element. The topics addressed during the week related to the need to look at social relations and the lives of individuals with greater care. The VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK is a VestAndPage Live art exhibition project realized in collaboration with Studio Contemporaneo, Venice Open Gates, We Exhibit, Live Arts Cultures and Global Art Affairs Foundation. Venice: VestAndPage press, 2014 Hardcover, pp. 128, 20 x 13 cm Printed in a limited edition of 300


Exposition: Art and Research Colliding (01/01/2014) by Mäki Teemu
Andrea Pagnes 03/06/2014 at 20:59

A difficult challenge, full of traps and pitfalls, is to address and discuss theoretically and from different perspectives issues such as:

  • Where are the boundaries and what are the connections between art, knowledge, and research in the broadest sense of the terms?
  • What are they actually substantially, qualitatively, quantitatively, and relationally – that is to what extent do they interrelate and ‘leak’ into one another (what is their level of ‘interference’)?
  • How it is possible to determine and to which extent are they useful and beneficial for one each other, remaining equally valid for themselves?

In fact, someone can easily fall into clichés, specious statements, and mere opinions that are too captious and personal.


As Teemu Mäki is both an artist and an academic, the ‘bipartisan’ balance he has been able to maintain in his exposition (for the reader) is admirable – but more interesting is that the source of his exposure stems from his primary status as an artist, and is not dictated by professorial habit. There is a strong stand in all this, not in defence of what and how an author says and writes, but rather due to a deep necessity to dissect freely and express in words argumentation as such, trying to fathom the most intimate folds of art making.


From an academic perspective, one can surely object to the assumptions and considerations and the style of writing, even say ‘the contrary of the contrary’ with as much authority and with reference to influential topics of equal or greater validity. However, from my perspective, what actually emerges from Teemu’s effective analysis as a whole, is almost an open invitation to artists to consider from different perspective their process of making art – how and why, to unveil and reveal, to be more understandable, not just for the others, but mainly for themselves.


Of course, as artists, for instance, it would be much easier to associate with what Gerhard Richter once wrote: ‘Talk about painting: there’s no point. By conveying a thing through the medium of language, you change it. You construct qualities that can be said, and you leave out the ones that can’t be said but are always the most important.’1 Or, as academics, it would be easier to remark on a certain excessively flamboyant attitude when artists attempt to write about their art process and research. Nevertheless, in this case, I would venture a comparison between what ultimately emerges from this text (in terms of artistic research) and what Robert Storr stated (which I find somehow pertinent and which gives evidence to the whole exposition): ‘It is not right to say that making is secondary and thinking is primary. It is not right to pretend that not knowing is more creative than knowing. It is not right to pretend that knowing is creating.’2


Taking into account the methods of critical thinking and forward thinking, to find possible fruitful dialogues and tangible balances between the ineluctable necessity of creative freedom in a particular artist research and the rigour and discipline required by the academic canons is to try to build new gateways between two worlds, apparently so distant from each other, but which need to coexist. And yes, I believe this is possible by outlining dialectically new methods that are open and interchangeable and by respecting the several differences that may arise by working in this way.


In fact, there is neither bias nor deployment in what Teemu writes: preferably, anything is left open to further discussion, something that he – as author – has made perfectly clear, as clear as what he’s writing about. Actually, flexible recall – the quality that discerns the many subjects that are usefully explored in any artistic research – becomes a key to improve the approach for both sides: the one of the artist and the one of the spectator. Continuously questioning mental processes of discernment and evaluation implements the benefits of reflecting on tangible and intangible areas, and consequently the spectrum of possibilities widens. A determining factor is suggesting and indicating the usefulness of setting a flexible range of parameters and variable factors that may reconcile philosophical evidence with common sense, abstract diagnosis with concrete results, the creative with the academic.

Artistic researchers draw information from observation, experience, reasoning, communication, and life, and their highest validity is not just when their outcomes go beyond the partiality of the individual subject – because anything that is human is by nature partial – but when their core values include clarity, accuracy, precision, and evidence.


Obviously, despite the breadth of Teemu’s analytical thesis, he has to draw his authorial conclusions in the end. Nevertheless, ultimately there is no definite guarantee that would formally allow us to scan the extent to which art and research have collided and dovetailed with each other; in fact, an absolute truth does not exist, especially if facing this kind of argumentation. Fortunately, when debating such themes, this is also what makes vital and stimulating the possible discussions that follow. What I mean is that someone might also never have all the information necessary for stating a thorough assessment, first, because it is impossible to neither generalise nor explain an artistic research expressed as such into rules or preordered schemes, and, second, because the thoughts that follow will always be partial (as this is their constitutional nature) and in need of subsequent experimentation and verification.


The intellectual and cultural value of an artistic research, I think, always resides in its quality of inexhaustible work in progress, fluid and open. The term ‘artistic research’, in its essence, could be translated metaphorically as an open yard where different ideas, questions, and temporary answers find their common ground and meet, clash, revolve, and evolve. In fact, anything can be put into discussion continuously, but then there will always come a moment when someone has to stop thinking and start making with what she or he knows (or presumes to know), letting the process continue on its path, concretising.


Analysing the many facets of the topic, which indicate a variety of application models that the author states are all equally valid even if they differ from one another, lead me – as reader – to further analysis and insights, which, as I myself am primarily an artist, corresponded to my own aspirations, urges, and inclinations. As the author’s observations are proactive, even though they remain within the confines of purely philosophical analysis (specifically, the almost surgical dissection of the terms art, knowledge, and research and of what they imply when joined together in different contexts, as well as the application – or better the extension – of the methodologies of critical thinking to them), from his offered perspective the text allowed me to navigate and observe the realm of my thoughtful abstraction (which is of course part of my creative process, as well as many other factors); with it, what is triggered inside myself and through agreement makes me decide for this or that solution.


It is a matter of fact that research is ultimately exploration and the essential dimension of art itself and its greatest strength ‘is in the continuation of thinking beyond verbalisable reasoning’ (Teemu Mäki). This is also because of perceiving and intuiting – and not just for rational pondering, which is, however, fundamental in the process. When the author describes art as a ‘human-made method for moulding our lifeworld, thus an excellent form of innovative and embodied moral pondering’ (though I personally would rather use here the term ethical), the term art, in its essence, is for me still something too complex to be reduced to some definition only. However, these kinds of sentences are exactly the ones that can promote possible, fruitful, and dialectical discussions among readers. For instance, when it is said that art expresses ‘what one would like the world and the self to become and how’, I personally do not consider this to be always the main concern that artists have – for many artists, if anything, the primal urge (due to a profound pulsional drive which is always personal and particular) is to express visions, worries, and wishes in a unconventional way, translating the reality and the world in which they live to produce and generate reflections on issues that often differ from one another. Diversity of social and cultural backgrounds plays a large role in all this, as well as in the comprehension and definition of what the word art means.


On the other hand, one of the crucial points outlined in Teemu’s exposition (and also given by concrete examples) is that specific research can be totally embedded into artworks – it does not always have to take the form of a theoretical text written by the artist (or others) to accompany or explain his or her artworks. In fact, it is undeniable that the process of making art is research in itself.


In Teemu’s own words, this becomes very clear because ‘we should be able to detect a significant research tendency in much of art, not just in the kind of scholarly writing or art making which labels itself as a combination of art and research […] Art as such produces, contains, and spreads knowledge, including when it does not go through any academic machinery that produces theory-grounded explanations of it […] [Art is] a flexible source that can be used with various personal approaches and interpretations – and that is enough.’ I see in these stated sentences a great opportunity for anyone interested in starting analysing a variety of art practices (and consequently final products) and comparing them with his or her own: practices of innovative cultural significance that, once understood and metabolised, become enriching for one’s way of thinking, opening up further, unexpected possible applications/solutions to the many new questions that arise and prolong the creative journey. To choose to write on such a topic from the artist’s perspective also makes a formidable contribution to other authors, allowing them to discuss the content constructively, as it is the ideas that are more vital, and the more they differ, the more fertile is the ground of the debate. It is unquestionably a propositive way of writing, where ‘yes or no’ and ‘right or wrong’ statements reduce their raison d’être.


For instance, having read Teemu’s text a few times, I have been driven to analyse in greater depth the dichotomy between critical thinking and creative thinking, and with it the role that my imagination plays in my own artistic research – for me, in art, imagination is often more important and valuable than knowledge itself, which I view as being limited mainly to what someone knows and understands, while imagination, because it can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, embraces the entire world and everything in it that can be known and understood. As Tim Hurson wrote, we may “imagine the thinking process as a kayak paddle. One side stands for creative thinking, the other for critical thinking. If you always used the creative paddle, you’d go around in circles. If you always used the critical paddle, you’d go around in circles the other way.” 3 To make the kayak move forward, “the key is to alternate between the two: creative, critical, creative, critical.” 4,




  1. Gerhard Richter, ‘Notes, 1964–65’, in Texts: Writing, Interviews and Letters 1961–2007, ed. by Dietmar Elgar and Hans Ulrich Obrist (London: Thames and Hudson, 2009), pp. 29–36 (p. 35).
  2. Robert Storr, ‘Rules for a New Academy’, in Art School (Propositions for the 21st Century), ed. by Steven Henry Madoff, (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2009), pp. 65–67 (p. 66).
  3. Tim Hurson, Think Better: An Innovator’s Guide to Productive Thinking (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008), pp.46-47
  4. Ibidem p.47