Rainer Pagel

“Equilibrium 1+1, Homage a D”  Photo: Kasia Pagel


Born 1948, he lives and works in Belfast.

His art practice developed from the 1970s in Hamburg and Belfast, very much under the influence of Bazon Brock, Max Bense and Joseph Beuys while in Germany, and Alastair MacLennan, Adrian Hall, Tony Hill and Dr Slavka Sverakova in Northern Ireland.

After taking part on the invitation of Joseph Beuys in the Northern Ireland workshop in the Documenta 6, Kassel, Germany 1977, he became a co-founder of Art and Research Exchange in Belfast, and was very actively involved in establishing 22 Lombard Street in Belfast as an important art venue and centre for new and innovative art in NI. In 1979, Beuys invited him together with two others to mount an exhibition of their work in Northern Ireland within the context of his show in the Guggenheim Museum, New York.

After an absence of 21 years from the visual arts scene, during which he engaged in “social sculpture” as per Beuys’ definition, he became a co-founder and the first chairperson of Bbeyond, the performance art collective in Northern Ireland in 2000. He has been a member of Bbeyond ever since.

His art comments on belief systems, societal events, political developments, absurd ideas and conventions of communication and human interaction. Performance as a medium allows him to use process to illustrate how the world in which we live changes while we’re not looking, and how we then misinterpret what we have not seen but assume we know intimately and accept as unassailable truth. The key themes of his performances are linked to his interest in people’s assumptions, perceptions and beliefs, without being aware that all truths are relative and constructs of our individual minds and the environment in which we grew up (physically, intellectually and emotionally). His performances also relate to disbelief, matters we don’t want to see, experience or believe, but have suffered or will have to endure in future. They unashamedly tell stories without becoming theatre, or merely illustrations. Pagel uses his visual vocabulary to set the context for his “stories” and his references range from the obvious and banal to cultural, historic, political and at times intimately personal meanings of his actions. He does not repeat his performances, though elements of a particular performance may re-appear in a different context in a new work.

For some time now, he has been working on issues around reality and fake, acceptance or refusal of situations and facts pretending and appearing to be so close to “the real thing” that it would be virtually impossible to detect any difference. The accuracy of our perception of the world in which we live and act depends on our ability accurately to discern reality to enable the shift from “I don’t believe it’s not…” to “I know it is…” to happen.

Production History:

1977 “Take Certain Steps in Absolute Safety”, “8 Hours is not a day”, “It”, “Zip” – Student Work, Belfast, London, Whitehead;   2006 “Exchange Places” – Canadian and Northern Ireland Artists, Black Box, Belfast. 2007 – “Fix” Performance Festival, Catalyst, Belfast. 2008 – “Archive”, Catalyst, Belfast (Solo). 2008 – “I am – Jestem” – Polish and Northern Ireland Artists, Black Box, Belfast. 2009 – “New Moves” – Contemporary arts Festival, Glasgow. 2009 “Open 10” – International Performance Festival, Beijing, China. 2009 – Commemorating 160 years of Belfast Art College –University of Ulster, Belfast. 2010 – “Infr’Action”, International Performance Art Festival, Sete, France. 2010 – Enniskillen Arts Festival, Enniskillen. 2010 “Tulca” Arts festival, Galway. 2010 “An hour on a Sunday”, PS2 Gallery, Belfast. 2011 – “Infr’Action Venice”, International Performance Art event, Venice, Italy. 2011 – “Guangzhou Live”, International Arts Festival, Guangzhou, China. 2012 “The Decade of Anniversaries”, University of Ulster, Belfast. 2012 – “Sweden Live”, International Arts Festival, Gothenburg, Sweden. 2013 – “Deframed”, 2nd Infr’Action Venice, International Performance Art event, Venice, Italy. 2014 “Die Axt im Haus…”, Bbeyond Bel-Mad Exchange, Belfast. 2015 “Migrant”, 3rd Infr’Action Venice, Venice, Italy. 2015 – “I can’t believe it’s not suffering”, Performance Art Bergen Open Festival, Bergen, Norway.