Conditions of an Ideal 

Screening + Q&A with Alexis Blake

Among the bleached marble sculptures of the Parthenon friezes in the British Museum, Alexis Blake examines the historical white Eurocentric and gender imperialistic representation of the idealized woman’s body. Conditions of an Ideal (2016) is a choreography in which structured improvisations navigate between democratic group movements and individual postures, between moments of tension and balance. The group of dancers and musicians explore notions of national collective identity versus personal expression through democratic movements, principles of balance and perceptions of beauty.

As a starting point, Blake created an archive of exercises and movements starting from: Diana Watt’s 1914 book Renaissance of the Greek Ideal, which details her theories based on Greek antiquity sculptures; Dora Menzler’s 1924 booklets Body Training for women; the fascist regimes appropriated exercises of the 1930’s done by groups of women and the imagery of the frieze and pediment sculptures in the Parthenon Gallery.

The second part of Conditions of an Ideal is a 51 minute film. In the film white rasterised images of sculptural fragments are layered on top of the footage. These fragments are from the Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece and belong to the sculptural group of the Parthenon frieze and pediment sculptures. This layering in the film visually reunites the fragments from the Acropolis Museum with their stolen counterpart in the British Museum.

Conditions of an Ideal is a contemplation on the potential of the body to figure and refigure itself. But this is not posited as the endlessly open horizon of a formless metamorphosis, plasticity and modulation. The work re-thinks the conditions of our ideals of bodies by entering in a critical dialogue with history, which is in fact always a double history. On one plane it is a history of the ideal as a positive retrospective fantasy, which is re-enacted as a constraint, something to strive for and to imitate. This is the long history of fixing the body through art; the female body as moving in unison with an unattainable ideal. On another plane, however, and simultaneously with the first, history is always a process of fragmentation, entropy, displacement, which opens fissures wherein we can place a critical wedge.” – Alena Alexandrova


Concept, direction, choreography: Alexis Blake
Dancers: Vanessa Abreu, Nandi BheBhe, Ruby Embley, Tanja Erhart, Eleni Papaioannou, Kezia Pollendine, Ellen van Schuylenburch
Musicians: Luisa Gerstein, Sarah Jones, Lani Rocillo
DOP: Robert Berger
Film Producer: Lucas van Woerkum
Editing: Alexis Blake, Lucas van Woerkum
Sound technician and sound editing: Jasper van Gheluwe
Project Producer: Zara Truss Giles


Co-commisioned by Block Universe and Delfina Foundation.
Supported by the Mondriaan Fonds and The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.



Alexis Blake’s multidisciplinary practice coalesces visual art, performance and dance. She investigates the way in which the body is represented and treated as an archive, which she then critically examines, disrupts, and re-negotiates. Her work directly engages with the representation and subjectification of women’s bodies while activating them as sites and agents for socio-political change. In doing so she creates languages of resistance and spaces to expose and elude systems of power.

Blake’s work has been presented at numerous locations, such as: High Line (New York City), EMST (Athens), Kunsthaus Zürich, KW Contemporary (Berlin), Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Holland Festival (Amsterdam), 1st Riga Biennial (Riga, Latvia), BOZAR (Brussels), Performatik19 (Brussels), IMMA – Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin), Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), British Museum / Block Universe Performance Festival (London), TENT (Rotterdam), ExtraCity (Antwerp) and La Triennale di Milano XXI (Milan). 

In 2021, she won the Dutch art prize, Prix de Rome. 

She received an MA in Fine Art from Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam (2007) and was an artist-in-residence at WIELS, Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels (2020+2021), the Delfina Foundation, London (2016), Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht (2014–15), Fondazione Antonio Ratti with Yvonne Rainer (2015). Her upcoming solo exhibition at WIELS, Brussels will open in June 2024. 


Alexis Blake, Conditions of an Ideal, 2016, British Museum, photo: Arron Leppard

24.03.2024, 14:00