The premise of an auction1 was used to examine the life span of an archive, how a body of work is disseminated and an artwork’s relation to the notion of death.2 Blake and Wiersma created a performance presentation around the value and currency of an artwork by playing with the protocols and tactics of an auction.
Blake3 and Wiersma see themselves as vessels and carriers, who reactivated Margot’s work by bringing the static into motion, creating awareness in the now and highlighting the oeuvre of a female sculptor, who pioneered the male dominated field with her monumental grand-scale works.
In 2014 Blake and Wiersma were introduced to the studio4 – still in tact – of the late sculptor and dancer, Margot Zanstra-van Wilgenburg, who lived and worked at ‘De Drie Heuvelen’ (a canal house) in Amsterdam until she passed away in 2010. They stumbled upon numerous workshop tables are dozens of small transparant pieces of plexiglass cut in the shape of quadrants, pyramids and cilinders; once the light stikes them, they start to glisten.’[/note] that occupied tools, press material, documentation, raw materials, photographs and foremost a large collection of scale models, which functioned as three-dimensional sketches for sculpture commissions in the making.
Fascinated by the material and sculptural quality of Margot’s scale models, Blake and Wiersma started to explore her legacy by approaching it as active matter. They saw the materials as props5 lying around, waiting to be activated. This encounter and the fact that Margot’s artistic interior would soon disappear with the sale of Drie Heuvelen, provoked Blake and Wiersma to start a dialogue with Margot’s oeuvre.6.
III: Ghost Dwellings
Blake and Wiersma took a selection of sculptures out of Margot’s studio, away from Drie Heuvelen and into a dance studio to develop a system of Margot Zantra’s sculptures by categorizing a selection of them into seven families7. These families are based on the concept, form and structure of Zantra’s sketches, studies and scale models for sculptures8.
Exclamations was a performance presentation and auction where, Alexis Blake and Yeb Wiersma9 honored the death of an artists’ archive while questioning the value of it within a contemporary art market. This archive was comprised of the work from Margot Zanstra-van Wilgenburg, who lived and worked at the Drie Heuvelen, Amsterdam from 1973- 2010. Since the ‘De Drie Heuvelen’ house was sold, the family needed to empty out the studio and no institute was willing or able to acquire the physical archive.
A selection of 28 sculptures from the seven families were the actors in the performance presentation and brought into movement by Blake and Wiersma. These 28 were auctioned off to the audience during the scope of the event. Job Worms, the great-grandson of Margot Zanstra, provided a soundscape for a selection of the 28 sculptures. Woven-in between the movements and music were found texts from Margot’s studio. In addition Blake and Wiersma created a poster10 on which the selection of 28 scale models are being displayed. Those who purchased one of the sculptures were given the poster certificate.11.
- Blake and Wiersma approached commercial photographer Lonneke van der Palen, to capture the 28 selected objects for the auction, playing around with the notion of ‘creating desire’.
- During the auction performance Blake and Wiersma read several fragments from found correspondence, diary notes and documentation they stumbled upon in Margot’s studio. “When Margot got married to the architect Piet Zanstra she was forced to quit her dancing career. The choreographer Sonia Gaskell, for whom she worked at the time demanded nothing short of total commitment. Marriage meant a cross behind your name, the cross that indicates a death.“
- Alexis Blake introducing sketch model No.3 to the audience. For all 28 objects Blake and Wiersma created a special movement accompanied by soundscapes or read text fragments.
- Image: Margot Zanstra’s studio.
- All the material that was present in the studio had the same potential and one object was not given more importance over the other. This non-hierarchical presentation of material within Margot’s studio was the incentive in how Blake and Wiersma treated the objects they encountered.
- Blake and Wiersma began their engagement with Margot’s studio by creating a series of video studies where they responded to certain sculptures with task-based movement exercises. The video studies were a physical and spatial way of engaging with Margot’s work and an approach to understand the sculptures’ language and its relation to the body. In these studies Blake and Wiersma experienced the ‘fourth dimension’ and speculated that Margot’s dance background must have had a profound affect on her knowledge of structure and space.
- Blake and Wiersma divided the scale models into seven families based on their form and characteristics. Image: Element, part of the ‘Orange family’. Characteristics: modular series, intertwined, endless repetition, building blocks, möbius, a bundle of redundancy, mirroring nature.
- As a way to capture the seven families – a selection of 28 scale models and sketches – before they would be broken apart and disseminated were photographed by Lonneke van der Palen. In this collaboration the artists decontextualized the objects from Margot’s studio and documented them on their way out of the house. (Image: Lonneke van der Palen.)
- Blake and Wiersma during the performance presentation introducing the auction.
- The poster is organized according to the system of seven colored families and can be folded in numerous ways.
- Blake and Wiersma folded the poster in 28 different ways.