*) The Effigies are not necessarily a likeness, but it may be a guide to her appearance.
Where do I come from. What was I interested in. What was the space I left like, the landscape I passed through. I took a path to a building, to a house. My house. Something was happening there. Something sad, perhaps beautiful. An occurrence that resides in my memory.
I come from one direction, the others come from another. On foot, on a bike, in a car. In thought.
Exploration Of Space
I ascend the stairs and a wide hallway spreads out before me. Its floor is paved in rectangular tiles in all shades of ochre. They line the walls up to mid-thigh: a tub of fired clay, a ceramic canal bed. In the background I see a vertical white surface. Light is shining from its opening. I walk toward the light and enter a small square room. It’s resting on the floor like a box turned upside-down, a squashed cube. The ochre-colored tiles continue beneath the box. Inside, diagonally opposite the first opening, I see a second one. I pass through it and arrive at the short end of the hallway behind. A gate-like opening leads to the lift and stairs. Small high windows in the front and a large window in the back flood the canal bed with natural light. The large window affords me a view of the street, which flanks an oval-shaped playground on whose edge a large tree with a forked trunk stands.
I see the cube—termed a “museum”—as an interruption in the overall flow of the building: in its size, its location, and also in its use. Placed at the intersection of the main axes of traffic, it takes in all movement. As a “space within a space,” it distinguishes itself from every other presentation surface. The curators reserved this spot for me in their exhibition course. I was interested in the “museum” not only because I have encountered artistic positions in the “museum” over the past several years that have meant something to me, but also because these positions were related to considerations having to do with my work for this space.
Working Draft N°1: Brimstone Butterfly in April
My family’s Effigies comprise the essence of this work. I think about how to install them. Something tells me that it’s impossible for them to be in the “museum.” I envision a garden in the rear section of the hallway. A large celebration is being prepared. A swing, a table, an iron grill, a watering can, wooden logs, various beams and blocks, and a cable drum made of wood are on hand, to be turned at a moment’s notice into serviceable furniture. The grass is in an early stage of growth. Forsythias are in bloom. A strange mat lies in the middle, and as soon as it dries, we’ll no longer need to wait for the weekend to greet nature’s explosion.
I consider crowning the “museum cube” with a slanted roof. The Effigies, installed on a platform of seats, would be able to observe the events in the garden from above. A ladder leads up to them. Standing on it, one can look into their missing eyes. The interior of the “museum” takes on the character of a temple: a closed atrium containing two close walls flanking the path between the two openings. Two basic moods confront and are contingent upon one another here: a windowless passage versus a garden, where life abounds. The garden scene is placed at the intersection of five different axes of view. The landscapes collide at full force. My daydream breaks apart.
Working Draft N°2: Caves
I think about moving the “play area” in the rear section of the “museum” to the front. Originally, I wanted to avoid this. I didn’t want to involve viewers in a scene that would have gradually called upon them to fantasize on their way to the cube. The Effigies were supposed to be invisible at first. I consider an array of building forms, test their use and effect: a low annex with an opening at the back, a front area, balcony-like, that can be accessed from the cube, a half-open hatch in the floor, secure hiding places and niches—an architectonic thicket. The cube is broken open from above, on the side, and from behind. Forms are added, rounded off, and its narrow side passageway treated like a tunnel. In the end, the hypothetical applications suffocate the initial spark. I cut the spatial growth back to its core.
Working Draft N°3: The Opening Mode
Once again, I consider opening the “museum” on the front side. The front wall should have a larger opening, the cut-out section tilted like a garage door extending into the cube. I hesitate, however, at the magnitude of the intervention. I would like to emphasize something else entirely. I return to the cube, to this original cell and its external formal limitations. This much is clear to me now: I will respect these limitations.
Working Draft N°4: The Garage
I envision covering the front of the cube with a blue tarp. Standing on the stairs, the viewer should see no more than a single continuous blue surface. For the entrance to the cube’s interior, I cut the tarp into vertical stripes and attach a piece from a second tarp behind it, slightly staggered. This screens out most of the light. A barrier ensues, an invitation to enter an opening that is both imaginary and real.
I ask myself where the Effigies might go now. Could they appear? And if so, in what number? Could they even be inside at all? And so I ask them what they’d like to do. They prefer not to use the same entrances and exits the people use. That, of course, is the reason why I’ve avoided using this space as their dwelling: until now, there has been no crack or gap through which they could have slipped unnoticed. It’s crucial to design a spatial system developed especially for them in which the pattern of their choreography can freely discharge itself. The paths they take should in no way be identical to the paths people take, and certainly not collide with them. An area must be created to which they can retire.
I design a path through the cube of the “museum” that makes it possible to pass through on several levels. It’s important to me to retain the stone floor as a component in the walking experience. All internal fittings are constructed in such a way that the floor’s presence beneath the walking platforms remains palpable at all times. The open step structure connects the levels as a staircase that could also be viewed as a bridge. In this way, the Effigies can move in all directions, and this reassures me that they can now occupy this space.
The Effigies are objects that have undergone a personification; they are enriched in their substance by a quality of being based on their history, by a purpose, by an effect. Very special things already leave the realm of objects at the moment of their becoming. The process of fabricating them is elaborate and of personal meaning to me. I make these Effigies with great dedication. Love can attain monumental proportions. They would never come about without this self-absorbing exercise. This is why I give them a special chamber, a special altar.
The thought of locking the Effigies away behind glass, like relics beneath bell jars, at an unreachable height or behind translucent gauze, safe from inquisitive hands, is disturbing.
In the course of my search I come upon a large number of museum presentation forms, from the simple display to the security-glass showcase. I analyze their design principles according to appearance and architecture, and cannot help but notice that they chiefly aim at channeling attention in a deliberate manner, that they are almost without exception made to focus the gaze in the sense of a utility program. In this way, the artifacts are arranged heroically; they are domesticated, robbed of their rights.
I would like to spare the Effigies this fate. I don’t want to lift them up onto a pedestal for them to appear more glorious than they perhaps are, and above all I don’t want to infuse them with intentions that are foreign to them. I would like to carefully emphasize their rough mix of contradictions. They will demand the necessary distance all on their own.
Now, after the Effigies have found their position in space, there is a greater degree of clarity concerning the movements of the people that I would like to finally guide in their direction. From now on, I view the entire construction project chiefly from this perspective.
An extra plane should be created especially for the people. I withdraw into the cube in order to once again internalize its spatial quality. The diagonal movement between the door openings remains essential; it gives rise to a separation into two times two zones: front and rear, left and right of the path; two front yards, two ventricles. In an entirely self-evident manner, this cross principle is interwoven as a secondary leitmotif in my design.
In diagram form, using wide tape, I mark out the connection between the openings to the “cube” onto the floor. In addition, I tape out the floor plan of a back wall that is to be brought to the front and placed to the side of the “museum” at an angle. This “line” enters into my drawing from somewhere outside. Sometimes one does something before one realizes why.
R E S E R V E
I no longer know when the memory was sparked of a work that I showed more than ten years ago at the Netwerkgalerij.
In the living room of a former custodian’s apartment in the factory, I set up a workroom in which I prepared an installation planned for the apartment’s bedroom. I constructed a number of funnels made of gauze and attached each funnel like a cell to a piece of cardboard with a small porthole that could be opened, a kind of tiny door that closed by itself. The funnels had a diameter of 5 in. and a height of 7.5 in. They were all sewn, and had a small pipe attached around the top.
While converting the building from a haberdashery factory into a gallery space, I declared the spiders as collateral damage and planned a reservation of funnel spaces connected in a kind of labyrinth. In order to assess the nutritional requirements of its future inhabitants, I caught a spider and placed it in an individual funnel in order to observe it.
That same day I caught a fly, which I brought to the spider imprisoned in the funnel. I thought this would soon lead to a battle, and that the spider would attack the fly. Two days passed. Then I saw the spider erect a wall in the middle of the funnel. When one studies the hunting behavior of this particular spider species, one learns that this infrastructure, this mat-like trap is indispensable to its working plan. At the end of the mat, it spins a tube-shaped web, its hiding place. It then watches over the narrow opening, which is covered by sparse threads. When the spider’s prey ventures too far into its territory and gets lost among these threads, they act as an alarm signal, and the spider flits quickly out of its hiding place and sprays a secretion onto the unfortunate insect, which goes rigid on the spot.
Normally, these spiders spin these mats horizontally in space, but this spider adapted its construction method to the circumstances and, entirely dispensing with the laws of gravity, divided the space vertically. Hour by hour, the progress of the construction in the miniature dwelling became increasingly evident until the funnel was separated into two equal parts. The wall did not, however, extend all the way down, which resulted in a small arena. The spider tarried in one section, while next door the fly waited for the imminent verdict, which was carried out the following night with a brief electric shock. The next morning, a fragment of a wing lay on the ground, and next to it a crumb of chitin.
Resilience ¬ Rebound Capacity
Because of its intrusiveness, the newly marked wall occupies my thoughts; I marvel at the inherent regularity of my program, all of whose goals seem to be connected to one another. The wall has long since been imbedded at a much earlier point in my investigation; the point at which memory encounters momentary occurrence remains vague. My realization that [Private Garage/Effigies] and [Reserve] belong together as works leads me to think about the gifts that lie in wait at the location of their return.
In Heaven, sitting Down
Two armchairs are part of my family’s legacy. To me they are so closely connected to my family that it feels as though they still belong to my innermost circle. Their presence has a paradoxical effect on me. The chairs are well preserved, yet despite this I can’t use them in my living space. I can neither give them away nor dispose of them. I cannot burn them—although this would make sense, I don’t have access to the required facilities, and burying them is just as impossible, although it turns out to be an interesting exercise in thought. I have no other recourse than to bring them to my working space. They keep me company there while I work, read, make tea. They are next to me, very near, and at the same time they begin to distance themselves because I deliberately exclude them from every form of use. I wait for the moment when it becomes clear what I will do with them next. Did a crime induce me to pick up the scalpel? Thoughts that depart without one asking them to can be healing.
My fingers feel for the hidden skeleton of wood until I happen upon a soft spot, where I apply the knife. The point of the blade touches the center of a small hollow; when I apply a little pressure, it penetrates into the skin of the chair and slices through the material. The first step towards taking the armchair apart in a systematic manner has now been completed. I tear away the supporting construction, cut through bands and straps, pull rivets and nails out of the wood. When the upholstery is removed, the last vestiges of muscle memory also disappear. It requires a good deal of leverage to separate the metal springs from their brackets. The work of deconstruction takes two days; the dissection is unusually exhausting. The striped seating bodies are now finally reduced to cadavers; nothing invites the viewer to regard them as furniture. Yet in spite of everything, they still recognizably retain the bodies’ contours.
I survey the spoils of the battle: black imitation leather, amber-colored foam, pink mohair. I intend to make new forms out of these.
Nighttime Ambrosia: Horror Vacui
Due to many years of exposure to the sun, the imitation leather has grown somewhat stiff. I can remove the skin easily and retool it as sheet material. Using a mat knife and pinking shears, I cut it into narrow strips. When I place these between the wires and twist them together, they give rise to brush-shaped elements reminiscent of awkward hair. These strange plants sprout out and around and through the armchairs and with a sudden shock, I see that they threaten to overrun the spaces in between, as well. I harvest these stalks and suspend them from the ceiling. Thus, they become gymnospermatic crosshatchings in space.
Text: Ingrid Mostrey
German Editing: Daniela von Waberer
Translation: Andrea Scrima