‘The material bears a memory, can connect us and gives us direction, and so it has a specific value’.

Floor Martens

In recent months at the Van Eyck Academy, Floor Martens (1998 Reuver) has been exploring photographic processes and techniques. Her exploration revolves around the human body, and her focus shifted to her own vulnerability and feelings of loss, fear and insecurity. She presents excerpts from her diaries and correspondence as audio works and as big sheets of typed text. Moved by an intense dance performance based on Ayahuasca ceremonies, she took part herself in a series of Ecstatic Dance sessions; a sort of meditative, expressive, free dance form. The free movement released a lot in Martens, who was amazed at the body’s instinctive capacity to express deep-rooted intuitions. Dance, or the expressive movement of a body, is like a form of direct communication that is ‘quicker and slower’, according to Martens. ‘In dance, the essence is much closer’. She takes photos of herself, and also asks friends to dance or move for the camera.

Martens presents the analogue shots of the young women and men as a framed series of bl/w photos on the wall. It is reminiscent of emblemata, symbolic images that express abstract concepts such as power and love. Martens' amazement at the essence and truth of individual body expression thus becomes an exploration of a new mental and emotional language.

Floor Martens

At the Maastricht graduation presentations in 2019, Floor Martens stood out for her series of associative works that demonstrate ambition and courage. She presents blackened remains of clotted blood in glass jars and a floor covered in pig’s blood dried to a powder, alongside an intimate series of photos of her naked body, of herself with friends, of her parents and grandparents, and of a dead rabbit on the road.

Here Martens creates a level playing field for people and animals, the mental and physical and the very personal and most general. She wonders what values all this represents for her and what their meaning could be. An evocative experience is offered by a closed room that can only be viewed through a peephole. The room is painted in hallucinatory white, and houses a little fox; a fragile creature that is equally real and mythical, which appears to be sleeping peacefully (against its better judgement) in a sort of wedge-shaped manger. This guarded, intimate work resonates with big themes of life and death, and loss and transformation. It makes an impression, and an editorial in the art journal Metropolis M refers to Martens’ interventions as “modern vanitas works”.

Before making the switch to Autonomous at the same academy in 2018, Martens studied Visual Communication and Material Design, where the emphasis is on photography and learning all sorts of techniques and crafts. Among other things, she learned sewing, silk-screen printing and dressing animal skins. When Martens found a dead rabbit in front of the gate of her parents’ house, everything fell into place. Using the abandoned carcass that ‘still felt so alive’ and her own body and those of others as source material, she explored processes of change and transformation. She butchered meat and tanned hides, experimented with sperm and her own menstruation blood, and spun and plaited dreadlocks from tufts of hair, which she then presented in basic symbolic forms. At the start, treating the organic material was gruesome and often emotionally exhausting, but Martens taught herself, as a physical being, to re-experience and re-evaluate things in a different way.

Header image: Floor Martens, uit de fotoserie Lijftaal, 2021
Text: Paula van den Bosch