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:
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
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 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: https://www.academia.edu/8720659/MayDay_VestAndPage_Workshop_Concept_Theory_and_Practice
A difficult challenge, full of traps and pitfalls, is to address and discuss theoretically and from different perspectives issues such as:
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,